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Decade of fatal injuries in workers in New Zealand: insights from a comprehensive national observational study
  1. Rebbecca Lilley1,
  2. Brett Maclennan1,
  3. Bronwen M McNoe1,
  4. Gabrielle Davie1,
  5. Simon Horsburgh1,
  6. Tim Driscoll2
  1. 1 Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  2. 2 School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Rebbecca Lilley, Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin 9054, New Zealand; rebbecca.lilley{at}


Introduction Current priorities and strategies to prevent work-related fatal injury (WRFI) in New Zealand (NZ) are based on incomplete data capture. This paper provides an overview of key results from a comprehensive 10-year NZ study of worker fatalities using coronial records.

Methods A data set of workers, aged 15–84 years at the time of death who died in the period 2005–2014, was created using coronial records. Data collection involved: (1) identifying possible cases from mortality records using selected external cause of injury codes; (2) linking these to coronial records; (3) retrieving and reviewing records for work-relatedness; and (4) coding work-related cases. Frequencies, percentages and rates were calculated. Analyses were stratified into workplace and work-traffic settings.

Results Over the decade, 955 workers were fatally injured, giving a rate of 4.8 (95% CI 5.6 to 6.3) per 100 000 worker-years. High rates of worker fatalities were observed for workers aged 70–84 years, indigenous Māori and for males. Workers employed in mining had the highest rate in workplace settings while transport, postal and warehousing employees had the highest rate in work-traffic settings. Vehicle-related mechanisms dominated the mechanism and vehicles and environmental agents dominated the breakdown agencies contributing to worker fatalities.

Discussion This study shows the rates of worker fatalities vary widely by age, sex, ethnicity, occupation and industry and are a very serious problem for particular groups. Future efforts to address NZ’s high rates of WRFI should use these findings to aid understanding where preventive actions should be prioritised.

  • workplace
  • occupational injury
  • epidemiology
  • mortality
  • driver

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  • Contributors RL led the study contributing to the study design, data collection and analysis, and was primarily responsible for the article preparation. BMcN contributed to the study design, data collection, interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. BM and GD contributed to the study design, analysis, interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. SH and TD contributed to the study design, review of difficult cases, interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. SH additionally generated figure 1.

  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from the Health Research Council of NZ (HRC 16/173).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for this study was granted by the University of Otago Human Ethics Committee (Ref 15/065) and for the use of the relevant data by the National Coronial Information System (Ref NZ007) and the Health and Disability Ethics Committee (Ref OTA/99/02/008/AM05).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The primary data used for this study are obtained from the National Coronial Information System and are not publicly available.