Many industries are seeing drops in the number of serious work injury claims, arguably due to the safer working conditions. But sadly, in Australia, work injuries and fatalities are more prevalent than ever, especially in construction, mining and trade industries.
A fatality each week in construction
Labourers are more likely to be killed or get seriously hurt while on the job, according to the latest data from Safe Work Australia.
Fifty-six labourers were killed on the job in 2017 - the largest proportion of all worker fatalities in Australia - with the occupation also accounting for almost a quarter of all serious workers’ compensation claims during the 2016 financial year.
More than half of all the workers who died in 2012-17 were killed by heavy machinery, such as cars, tractors and excavators, the Safe Work Australia reports also show.
Frank’s fateful day
Frank Luberto knows he’s lucky be alive after he was hit by an excavator while at work in September 2015.
Mr Luberto was working as a labourer taking extension leads off a wall, when he was hit in the back by the huge machine. His immediate thoughts were that he may die and never see his children again.
“It was horrible… I was in excruciating pain,” he told The Herald Sun.
An ambulance rushed Mr Luberto to the Royal Melbourne Hospital, where he learned he had sustained serious spinal injuries. He underwent back surgery but - four years on - he still walks with crutches and suffers headaches from ongoing neck pain.
The work accident also had a profound effect on Mr Luberto’s mental health. Once fit and energetic as a labourer, the now 49-year-old is often stuck at home.
“I can’t go back to work… my marriage broke up. You start to feel depressed,” he said.
“Look after yourself, you need to go home to your family. I used to risk my life, too, but, at the end of the day, it’s not worth it.”
Maurice Blackburn associate Celeste Shambrook, who represents Mr Luberto, said his case was all too familiar.
“As a personal injury lawyer, I often see horrific workplace accidents that are completely preventable,” Ms Shambrook said.
“Workplace safety should be a high priority for all employers, but especially those who have businesses within the dangerous labour, construction and trade industries.
“There are still too many employers who are not taking workplace safety seriously. It needs to be a high priority, especially with Victoria’s impending industrial manslaughter laws set to hold employers accountable.”
What should I do if I have been involved in a workplace accident?
If you’ve sustained a workplace injury, you need to remember that legal protections can help you secure the medical treatment and financial assistance you need.
If you suffer an injury at work, seek legal advice at the earliest possible opportunity. It’s best to seek advice even if WorkCover accepts your claim, because you may be entitled to other benefits that could result in substantial compensation.
If a loved one has died as a result of a workplace accident, you should seek legal advice as soon as possible to discuss your options.