Confusion over workplace death statistics

This is a follow-up on the post Raymond Huo and one hundred deaths. 

Raymond Huo claimed “we’ve had an average of 100 deaths a year” on Red Alert. I searched to find where that number came from. I inititally found this at OSH:

Workplace fatalities 2007 – 2012

Industry 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011† 2012*
Accommodation and Food Services 1 0 1 0 0 1
Administrative and Support Services 1 0 0 0 0 0
Agriculture 15 19 10 19 15 8
Arts and Recreation Services 1 12 12 7 1 2
Construction 10 8 18 6 4 3
Education and Training 1 0 3 2 1 0
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services 2 0 1 3 3 0
Forestry 3 4 4 4 3 5
Health Care and Social Assistance 0 1 2 1 2 0
Manufacturing 4 3 10 1 3 1
Mining and extractives 1 0 0 29 1 0
Other Services 0 1 1 0 1 0
Public Administration and Safety 0 4 2 2 1 0
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 0 0 0 0 1 0
Transport, Postal and Warehousing 6 2 3 3 5 0
Wholesale Trade 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 45 54 68 77 41 20

† 2011 figures are provisional and subject to change.

* 2012 figures are as at 8 August 2012. These figures are provisional and subject to change.

The statistics show the number of fatalities, notified to the Department of Labour under the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act 1992. The statistics do not include: fatalities in the maritime or aviation sectors or due to work-related crashes on the road as these are investigated by Maritime New Zealand, the Civil Aviation Authority and the NZ Police respectively. Nor do they include fatalities from long latency diseases caused by exposure to hazardous substances.

http://www.osh.govt.nz/resources/stats/fatalities-summary.shtml

As this is significantly different to Huo’s claim I asked him where he got his number from. He referred me to an NZ Herald article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10844507

I asked NZH where they got their figure from but they haven’t responded.

I’ve searched some more and found a reference in an ODT editorial – Unacceptable and unsustainable – which said:

Last week, a public meeting was hosted in Dunedin by members of the Government-appointed Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety which is examining the issue, seeking public feedback nationwide, and developing recommendations for the Government to consider next year to achieve its goal of a 25% reduction in workplace deaths and serious injuries by 2020.

Official figures show each year in New Zealand an average of 100 people die from work-related accidents and an average of 380 receive serious non-fatal work-related injuries.

I checked the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety website which linked to a consultation document :

New Zealand’s workplace health and safety outcomes are poor,
particularly by comparison to other countries

15. Statistics New Zealand reports annually on New Zealand’s work related injury and fatality rates through the fatal and non-fatal Serious Injury Outcome Indicators (SIOI).
16. The most recent SIOI figures available for work related injuries (2008—2010) show that New Zealand has:
•     102 fatalities per annum at a rate of 4.1 per 100,000 workers
•     369 non-fatal serious injuries at a rate of 16.0 per 100,000 workers

Searching on Serious Injury Outcome Indicators at Statistics New Zealand I found an Injuries – Injury Information Portal which had links to PDF and spreadsheet data.

1994 ..
1995 80.0
1996 80.7
1997 70.3
1998 62.0
1999 52.7
2000 52.3
2001 65.0
2002 81.0
2003 91.0
2004 85.7
2005 90.0
2006 88.3
2007 87.3
2008 93.0
2009 P 102.3
2010 ..

P provisional
.. figure not available
Source: ACC entitlement claims; Statistics New Zealand

This shows a peak in 2009 of 102.3 (I’m not sure how you can get fractions of deaths) and no other years are more than 100 so ‘102 deaths per annum’ is incorrect, and it certainly isn’t an average of 100 deaths per year (over 15 years it’s 78.8).

And there’s further confusion. I looked up ACC’s website and on Frequently requested facts and stats they say:

Work injuries

In 2007/08 119 people were killed…

Spreadsheet link: Fatal work-related claims by industry (XLS 14K)
(showing that it relates to the period 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2008)

So that gives us three quite different totals for one year:

  • 54 (OSH)
  • 93 (Statistics New Zealand who cite ACC as a source)
  • 119 (ACC website “facts”)

I didn’t find any statistics that support “an average of 100 deaths per year”.

Workplace accidents and especially workplace deaths are a major concern. Contradictory statistics are also a concern, this makes it very difficult to know how bad things are and to measure trends.

Raymond Huo and one hundred deaths

Raymond Huo has blogged at Red Alert on workplace deaths but has claimed numbers that are vague and seem to be grossly overstated.

A hundred deaths and $3.5bl a year and finally, Williamson admits we have a problem….

Posted by  on November 6th, 2012

The scale of the unsafe building practices revealed in a recent clampdown raises serious questions about why Maurice Williamson and his National-ACT Government have continued with such a nonchalant approach for so long.

While Building & Construction Minister Maurice Williamson finally admits there is a problem, this Government has had four years in office, and in the meantime, we’ve had an average of 100 deaths a year, with workplace injuries and fatalities reportedly costing New Zealand about $3.5 billion annually.

Translate that into the devastation caused to builders and their families, the lost productivity and the additional costs to ACC; these are not the standards we would expect of a developed nation.  Why should we accept that our construction workers are twice as likely to be killed or injured on the job, compared to workers on a site in the United Kingdom?

At the heart of the problem is this ‘hands off’ approach by a Government that imagines the market will sort somehow out its own problems.

It hasn’t worked in the mining industry, and it’s not working in the construction industry.

Labour believes we have to get back to having equal opportunities for all Kiwis; we do not accept that lowering our health and safety performance for some sectors is necessary for economic recovery.

With the Christchurch rebuild starting and the Government  now at least talkingabout the Auckland housing crisis, keeping workers safe must become a recognised priority for all parties involved.

Huo isn’t clear about whether he is claiming an average hundred deaths a year in the building industry or in total, but either way it seems like he is grossly overstating figures, and there seems to be no relationship between what he’s saying and the official figures over the four years of a “National-ACT” government.

According to OSH statistics the peak was in 2010 with 77 fatalities (including 29 at Pike River).  Last year there were less fatalities (41) than 2007 or 2008, and this year the indications are for a lower total – there are 20 confirmed deaths up to 24 August.

Construction had a peak of 18 deaths in 2009 and has dropped significantly since then.

I have asked Huo to indicate where he gets his figures from. I’ll report back if he responds.

Workplace fatalities 2007 – 2012

Industry 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011† 2012*
Accommodation and Food Services 1 0 1 0 0 1
Administrative and Support Services 1 0 0 0 0 0
Agriculture 15 19 10 19 15 8
Arts and Recreation Services 1 12 12 7 1 2
Construction 10 8 18 6 4 3
Education and Training 1 0 3 2 1 0
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services 2 0 1 3 3 0
Forestry 3 4 4 4 3 5
Health Care and Social Assistance 0 1 2 1 2 0
Manufacturing 4 3 10 1 3 1
Mining and extractives 1 0 0 29 1 0
Other Services 0 1 1 0 1 0
Public Administration and Safety 0 4 2 2 1 0
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 0 0 0 0 1 0
Transport, Postal and Warehousing 6 2 3 3 5 0
Wholesale Trade 0 0 1 0 0 0
Total 45 54 68 77 41 20

† 2011 figures are provisional and subject to change.

* 2012 figures are as at 8 August 2012. These figures are provisional and subject to change.

The statistics show the number of fatalities, notified to the Department of Labour under the Health and Safety in Employment (HSE) Act 1992. The statistics do not include: fatalities in the maritime or aviation sectors or due to work-related crashes on the road as these are investigated by Maritime New Zealand, the Civil Aviation Authority and the NZ Police respectively. Nor do they include fatalities from long latency diseases caused by exposure to hazardous substances.

http://www.osh.govt.nz/resources/stats/fatalities-summary.shtml

Update: Huo is quoting from this article from NZ Herald:
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10844507

I’m seeking clarification from NZH.