Comparison of work related fatal injuries in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand: method and overall findings.
To compare the extent, distribution, and nature of fatal occupational injury in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Workplaces in New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Data collections based on vital records were used to compare overall rates and distribution of fatal injuries covering the period 1989-92 in Australia and the United States, and 1985-94 in New Zealand. Household labour force data (Australia and the United States) and census data (New Zealand) provided denominator data for calculation of rates. Case definition, case inclusion criteria, and classification of occupation and industry were harmonised across the three datasets. New Zealand had the highest average annual rate (4.9/100,000), Australia an intermediate rate (3.8/100,000), and the United States the lowest rate (3.2/ 100,000) of fatal occupational injury. Much of the difference between countries was accounted for by differences in industry distribution. In each country, male workers, older workers, and those working in agriculture, forestry and fishing, in mining and in construction, were consistently at higher risk. Intentional fatal injury was more common in the United States, being rare in both Australia and New Zealand. This difference is likely to be reflected in the more common incidence of work related fatal injuries for sales workers in the United States compared with Australia and New Zealand. The present results contrasted with those obtained by a recent study that used published omnibus statistics, both in terms of absolute rates and relative ranking of the three countries. Such differences underscore the importance of using like datasets for international comparisons. The consistency of high risk areas across comparable data from comparable nations provides clear targets for further attention. At this stage, however, it is unclear whether the same specific occupations and/or hazards are contributing to the aggregated industry and occupation group rates reported here.
Associate Professor Anne-Marie Feyer, New Zealand Environmental and Occupational Health Research Centre, PO Box 913, Dunedin, New Zealand