A Morbid Claim to Fame for Australian Trucking

a morbid claim to fame, for Australian trucking

The category ‘transport, postal and warehousing’ features in the top three across all industries in both fatalities and compensation claims, it’s a morbid claim to fame, for Australian trucking. 

When considering this, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association looks at the most recent statistical year, 183 Australians were fatally injured at work and 107,335 workers lodged compensation claims.

While accident figures are alarming, it is also important to note that work related fatalities in transport have decreased by 44 per cent since a peak in 2007 and the rate of serious compensation claims has decreased by 28 per cent. Yet as they say, the devil is often in the detail, and it remains the case that 72 per cent of fatalities across all industries are related to vehicles.  

OK. So those are the official statistics. But how many other injuries or near misses go unreported?

In March 2021, ALRTA conducted a national member survey to investigate the frequency and nature of injuries in livestock transport over the past five years, as well as near misses and reporting behaviours.

Even though it is well known across the livestock sector that loading and unloading animals is the most dangerous part of the transport task, the results were a sobering call to action.

Across more than 100 survey respondents, 87 per cent had experienced an injury in the past five years and perhaps even more alarmingly, almost 70 per cent continue to experience near misses regularly or often. The most common injury types were bruising, lacerations and broken bones, with 68 per cent of injuries requiring medical treatment. 

Who wants to join an industry sector with that kind of safety record? In 2021, shouldn’t we all expect to get home safely? 

Part of the problem lies in a long ingrained industry culture that accepts personal injury as ‘just part of the job’, along with perceptions that reporting unsafe facilities will have a negative economic impact on the transport business. 

Our survey found that a whopping 80 per cent of respondents felt that reporting an unsafe facility would have a direct impact on their current work or repeat business. Anecdotally, it is not uncommon for facility owners to respond to safety concerns with, “If you don’t like it, don’t come back”. 

Perhaps this explains why just 61 per cent of respondents had actually reported an injury or unsafe facility. Even when reporting does occur, it usually goes no further than the employer or transport operator. Only 27 per cent of reports are raised with the owner or manager of the unsafe facility, and even more concerning, worksafe authorities are notified less than seven per cent of the time. 

a morbid claim to fame, for Australian trucking

No reporting. No action. Near misses continue. Eventually there is a major accident or fatality.

The ALRTA National Driver and Animal Welfare Committee is actively considering these shocking statistics and the steps our association should take in response. One thing is clear, we just can’t allow our culture of acceptance and under-reporting to continue.

We have already achieved some significant gains by establishing AS 5340:2020, an Australian Standard for Livestock Loading/Unloading Ramps and Forcing Pens. The standard was published in November 2020 following an application to Standards Australia by ALRTA and a thorough supply chain and public consultation phase. 

To ensure the ramp standard is well known and well understood, ALRTA has written to all workplace authorities, major facilities and supply chain peak bodies. With the assistance of our six state member associations, we are advertising in trade media, distributing 10,000 promotional brochures and providing our members with access to free copies of the standard.  

And it seems that regulators are listening. Shortly after our representatives raised this important matter during the Senate Inquiry into the Importance of a Viable, Safe, Sustainable and Efficient Road Transport Industry, SafeWork SA announced a new compliance and enforcement campaign involving targeted safety audits along the livestock supply chain. 

Action is also occurring at the local level. For example, the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Western Australia is actively zeroing in on specific problematic loading and unloading sites. Information is being collected on unsafe facilities and practices causing concern among members and tailored plans are being developed to advocate for change. This can involve simple conversations, shared risk identification and control, support for funding applications, public advocacy, or referral to workplace authorities.

A vitally important part of our ramp safety campaign is you, our members. You are our eyes and ears on the ground. You know when a loading or unloading set up is unsafe. You know the risks and you probably know what needs to be done to fix it. 

If you have experienced an injury or near miss, we encourage you to come forward and report the problem. If you are uncomfortable reporting directly to the facility owner or worksafe authority, please contact the ALRTA or one of our six state member associations. We are in the business of helping you. 

a morbid claim to fame, for Australian trucking