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Why Has the Workplace Become Safer?

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This paper asks whether the fall over 1983–1993 in the aggregate injury-to-workforce ratio (the injury rate) that occurred in Queensland was due to improvements in industrial safety or due to shifts in employment away from ‘unsafe’ industries. The conclusion, based on data from the Queensland Employee Injury Data Base, is that improvements in industrial safety were the main reason for the State’s workplace becoming safer. The paper then conducts an econometric investigation in to why industrial injury rates in Queensland fell over 1983–1993. The evidence is that in Mining, Manufacturing and Construction, there was a significant autonomous decrease in the injury rate. The problem is that since the data available were only for those injuries against which compensation was claimed, it is difficult to say—except as a matter of judgement—whether improvements in injury rates in these sectors were due to genuine improvements in safety or caused by a fall in the propensity to claim compensation. Changes in general economic conditions—particularly, rising unemployment—have also contributed to falling injury rates.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Public Policy, Economics and Law, University of Ulster, 2: Department of Economics, The University of Queensland

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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