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Original research
Decade of variable progress: trends in fatal injury in workers in New Zealand from a national observational study
  1. Rebbecca Lilley1,
  2. Brett Maclennan1,
  3. Gabrielle Davie1,
  4. Bronwen M McNoe1,
  5. Simon Horsburgh1,
  6. Tim R 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, New Zealand; rebbecca.lilley{at}


Introduction Analyses of secular trends in work-related fatal injury in New Zealand have previously only considered the total working population, potentially hiding trends for important subgroups of workers. This paper examines trends in work-related fatalities in worker subgroups between 2005 and 2014 to indicate where workplace safety action should be prioritised.

Methods A dataset of fatally injured workers was created; all persons aged 15–84 years, fatally injured in the period 2005–2014, were identified from mortality records, linked to coronial records which were then reviewed for work relatedness. Poisson regression modelling was used to estimate annual percentage change in rates by age, sex, ethnicity, employment status, industry and occupation.

Results Overall, worker fatalities decreased by 2.4% (95% CI 0.0% to 4.6%) annually; an average reduction of 18 deaths per year from baseline (2005). Significant declines in annual rates were observed for younger workers (15–29 and 30–49 years), indigenous Māori, those in the public administration and service sector, and those in community and personal service occupations. Increases in annual rates occurred for workers in agriculture and forestry and fisheries sectors and for labourers. Rates of worker deaths in work-traffic settings declined faster than in workplace settings.

Discussion Although overall age-standardised rates of work-related fatal injury have been declining, these trends were variable. Sources of injury risk in identifiable subgroups with increases in annual rates need to be urgently addressed. This study demonstrates the need for regular, detailed examination of the secular trends to identify those subgroups of workers requiring further workplace safety attention.

  • epidemiology
  • injury
  • mortality studies
  • accidents
  • public health

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  • Contributors RL led the study contributing to the study design, data collection and analysis, and was primarily responsible for the preparation of the article. BM and GD contributed to the study design, undertook the analysis and made further contributions to the interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. BMN contributed to the study design, data collection, interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. SH and TRD contributed to the study design, review of difficult cases, interpretation of study findings and preparation of the article. SH additionally generated figures 1 and 2.

  • Funding This study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, grant number 16/173.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement The primary data used for this study were obtained from the National Coronial Information System administered by

    a third party the Department of Justice and Regulation, Victoria, Australia. These data are not publicly available.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.