Why is the Australian construction industry so dangerous?

Posted by Pia Abrahams on

Welder working at height on a construction site in Australia without a safety harness.

The Australian construction industry has long suffered high rates of workplace accidents and fatalities.

Despite efforts to improve safety standards, the construction industry nationwide continues to experience a disproportionate number of incidents compared to other industries.

Only by better understanding the major causes of accidents and challenges faced by the industry, can we reduce incidents and improve workplace safety for all Australian construction workers.

What are the main reasons for the high number of construction accidents in Australia?

Several factors contribute to the high number of construction accidents in Australia.

These include a lack of proper training for construction workers, inadequate safety equipment, poor working conditions and a failure by employers to prioritise worker safety.

The fast-paced nature of the construction industry can lead to shortcuts being taken and safety measures being overlooked.

Another reason for the high number of construction accidents in Australia is the rapid pace of infrastructure development. With large-scale projects being undertaken in both urban and regional areas, there’s a high demand for skilled construction workers, often leading to inexperienced workers being employed.

A culture of long working hours and tight deadlines can lead to fatigue and a lack of focus on safety, which causes more accidents.

Subcontracting throughout the industry has created challenges in ensuring consistent safety practices across construction sites.

Are there legal requirements for workplace safety in the Australian construction industry?

There are several legal requirements for workplace safety in the Australian construction industry.

These are enshrined in the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (updated April 2022), which outlines the responsibilities of employers and workers in ensuring workplace safety, as well as specific regulations related to construction work such as the National Code of Practice for the Prevention of Falls in Housing Construction.

Failure to comply with these requirements can result in legal action and penalties, which can have significant financial and reputational consequences for businesses operating in the industry.

Team of builders working on an Australian construction site.

How does the Australian construction industry compare to other countries in terms of safety?

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), construction is one of the most dangerous industries globally, with an estimated 60,000 fatalities worldwide each year.

While Australia's construction industry has a higher rate of workplace fatalities compared to other industries in the country, it’s important to note that the industry is one of the largest employers in the country and has a relatively low rate of fatalities compared to similar industries in other countries.

What measures are being taken to improve safety in the Australian construction industry?

There are several measures being taken to improve safety in the Australian construction industry.

These include mandatory safety training for workers, stricter safety regulations and the implementation of safety management systems by employers.

Industry groups and unions are also working to raise awareness about the importance of workplace safety, and promoting safe working practices through campaigns such as National Safe Work Month, which takes place every October.

Safety sign on the fence of an Australian construction site.

What is the role of employers in ensuring workplace safety in the Australian construction industry?

Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to ensure the safety of their workers.

This includes providing proper safety equipment including personal protective equipment and accessible first aid facilities, ensuring workers are properly trained, and creating a safe working environment.

Employers should also regularly assess workplace risks and take steps to minimise them. Failure to meet these obligations can result in legal action and penalties.

Employers who prioritise worker safety are not only meeting their legal obligations, but they’re also creating a more productive and positive work environment.

What are the most common types of accidents in the Australian construction industry?

The most common types of accidents in the Australian construction industry are falls from heights, which account for around 30% of all construction-related fatalities, followed by being hit by moving objects and incidents involving machinery and equipment.

The risk of injury or death from falls is particularly high in the residential construction sector, where scaffolding and ladders are often used without proper safety measures.

Additionally, exposure to hazardous substances and musculoskeletal injuries are also common in the industry.

Brenniston National Standard Mobile & Tradie First Aid Kit.

How can workers protect themselves from hazards in the Australian construction industry?

Workers in the Australian construction industry can protect themselves by being aware of potential hazards in their work environment and following proper safety procedures.

This includes wearing appropriate personal protective equipment such as hard hats, safety glasses and gloves, as well as using proper fall protection equipment when working at heights.

Suitable and fully stocked workplace first aid kits are also important and necessary for compliance. Having the appropriate first aid supplies on site means workers will be well prepared for a workplace injury or illness.

Workers should report any unsafe conditions to their employer or supervisor and seek medical attention for any injuries sustained on the job.


Safe Work Australia - Work Health and Safety Perceptions: Construction Industry

Safe Work Australia - Managing the Risk of Falls in Housing Construction

Australian Bureau of Statistics - Work-related Injuries, 2021-22 Financial Year

International Labour Organization - Occupational Safety and Health in the Construction Sector