Investigation of Causative Factors Associated with Summertime Workplace Fatalities
Over a three-week period in the summer of 2005-2006 the Department of Labour investigated the work-related deaths of 10 New Zealanders.
For anyone not directly affected by such a loss it is hard to comprehend the enormity of such workplace fatalities - for families and loved ones; for colleagues; for employers; and for communities.
This apparent increase over three summer weeks - 15 percent of all recorded fatalities in the 2005-2006 year - begged important questions: Are workers more likely to be killed in work-related incidents during the summertime? And if so, then what factors might contribute to such a trend, and possibly be targeted in the hope of reducing future fatalities?
The Department of Labour responded with a research project to identify if a statistical relationship could be identified between seasonal work trends and workplace fatalities. The Department provided researchers with its database of 362 workplace fatality records for the six years from 2000 to 2005. Although this data set was relatively small for the scale of analysis being conducted, it represented the most reliable data available.
The findings of this research are presented in this report.
In summary, males, working in the agriculture industry, aged between 55 and 64, are most likely to have a fatal incident in their workplace during the summertime. The research also shows that workplace fatalities occur more often at certain times of the day, in certain areas of the country, and are more likely to involve a vehicle than not.
The research is very much a first step as the Department of Labour tries to better understand the causes and how to prevent fatalities at work.
This report helps us to frame new questions, like, why are there more workplace fatalities between 10.30am and noon, and between 2.30pm and 3.30pm? And from them, yet more questions: What is the impact of nutritional factors on concentration? Has technology like ride-on farm bikes extended the working lives of people in the agriculture sector? And what challenges might this present?
This research report provides clues to the answers, but not the answers themselves. These will come from further work the Department of Labour now wants to carry out in partnership with stakeholders including industry, business and unions.
But those three weeks after Christmas 2005 remain a strong reminder that we need to continue to look to the causes of summer fatalities, and continuously look to improve our health and safety systems to address these causes.
Group manager, workplace policy
Department of Labour