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Traffic crashes leading cause of workplace death

Traffic crashes the leading cause of workplace death

A new Health Research Council funded study has revealed that New Zealanders who die at work are most likely to die in a motor vehicle crash.

Professor John Langley is releasing the study results at this week's Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa New Zealand (IPNANZ) Weaving the Strands 2003 Conference in Wellington.

The new study of workplace fatalities revealed 29% are due to traffic crashes - the largest single category of work-related death in New Zealand.

"This is of concern given the severity of the problem and the rate at which it is occurring," says Professor Langley, the Director of Injury Prevention Research at Otago University.

"This also means that we may be missing an opportunity to reduce the road toll via good occupational safety practice."

The discovery was made when the research team reviewed all the coronial files involving traffic crashes between 1985 and 1998 and compared them with previous research they had undertaken on work-related fatal injuries.

In the period studied there were 241 worker fatalities and a further 192 commuting fatalities. In addition, although not engaged in work themselves, 1447 people died in the process of another person's work activity on a public road.

The industry identified as having the highest rate of fatalities during this time period was road freight transportation.

Professor Langley says that given the numbers involved, a closer observation of traffic-related workplace deaths is needed. A summary of the findings has been presented to Government agencies.

"Historically there has been a diffusion of responsibility around these events in a sense that police and OSH have each considered it the others primary responsibility". "Mobile workers" are now explicitly covered by the Health and Safety- Employment Act. [more] [workplace deaths/2]

Professor Langley says monitoring of workplace vehicle crashes by Occupational Health and Safety agencies has proved useful in overseas countries

"In the United States, the Department of Labour undertakes an annual census of fatal accidents involving commercial vehicles on their highways and we should be doing the same here," he says.

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