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Evidence activities


  • Safe Work Australia Act 2008 (Cth) – Item 4

Contributing to

  • Corporate plan—strategy 3
  • Operational plan—activities 4 & 6


  • We responded to around 500 requests for statistical information.
  • We published five major statistical reports.
  • We published the findings of the 2018 National Return to Work Survey and provided evidence to inform the development of the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030.
  • We undertook research in a number of priority areas including musculoskeletal disorders.


  • Safe Work Australia Members
  • Evidence Reference Group
  • Government
  • Researchers
  • Academics
  • Universities and educational institutions
  • WHS regulators
  • Workers’ compensation authorities
  • Research institutions
  • Journalists

‘We play a vital role in building, maintaining and promoting a national evidence base.’

Safe Work Australia’s Evidence sections play a vital role in building, maintaining and promoting the evidence base around WHS and workers’ compensation policy and practice in Australia. We are responsible for data and research that supports the agency’s important national role of achieving significant and continual reductions in the incidence of work-related death, injury and illness and improving outcomes for injured workers and their employers.

We are the custodians of key national WHS and workers’ compensation data which provides important information on work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities. We compile, analyse and report this data, to support a nationally‑coordinated and cooperative approach to WHS and workers’ compensation policy and practice.


In 2018–19, we delivered a range of evidence-based products and research, publishing five major statistical reports and responding to around 500 requests for tailored evidence and data from journalists, governments, academics and the public. Interest in our data continues to grow: our most popular publication, Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2018, received over 33,000 page views in 2018–19 (almost double that of 2017–18).

We provided evidence and advice to support several reviews, projects and inquiries, including the 2018 Review of the model WHS laws and the Senate Inquiry into the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia.

We administered the 2018 National Return to Work Survey and contributed to the development of the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030. We supported COMPARE, a national research project on return to work policy.

We conducted a range of other research activities to improve the national evidence base on key WHS and workers’ compensation issues, with a focus on the priority industries and disorders in the Australian Strategy, including work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Our research

Australian Research Council linkage grant: working longer, staying healthy

In 2018–19, Safe Work Australia continued as a partner organisation on this project. This project comprises five diverse sub-studies aimed at providing evidence to design policy and workplace interventions to accommodate and support older workers. The agency provides in-kind support, including participation on relevant project reference groups.

Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research

The ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research held its official launch at Parliament House on 31 October 2018. With an additional seven years’ funding from the Australian Research Council, the Centre will examine the challenges in creating good work for older workers, and seek to identify the kinds of work that preserve physical and mental capacity among older workers.

Safe Work Australia is a partner organisation of the Centre and is providing in-kind support for the first three years, including participation on relevant stakeholder reference groups. The Safe Work Australia CEO, Ms Michelle Baxter, is a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board.

BeUpstanding: Champion Toolkit

In recent years, Safe Work Australia contributed to the development of the University of Queensland’s BeUpstanding Champion Toolkit. This world-first multimedia resource aims to reduce sitting time at work by providing best practice guidance.

In 2017–18, the University of Queensland received additional funding from a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project grant to conduct a national implementation trial of the toolkit. Safe Work Australia is one of several policy and practice partner organisations, and contributes funding and in-kind support to this three-year project.

National Return to Work Survey

In 2018–19, Safe Work Australia published the findings of the 2018 National Return to Work Survey, undertaken by the Social Research Centre. The survey examined key factors affecting return to work rates and has been conducted biennially since 2014.

Our datasets and reports

Safe Work Australia plays a key role in developing evidence-informed policy through the compilation and analysis of four national data collections:

  • the National Dataset for Compensation-based Statistics (NDS)
  • the Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities (TIF) collection
  • the Comparative Performance Monitoring (CPM) program, and
  • the Australian Mesothelioma Registry (AMR).

The collections draw on a variety of data sources including administrative data provided by jurisdictions, fatality data from the National Coronial Information System and employment data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

In addition to the four main data collections, we access other relevant data sources to supplement current knowledge of work-related injuries, diseases and fatalities. These data sources include disease and injury statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) and survey-based data on work-related injuries from the ABS.

National Dataset for Compensation-based Statistics

For over 30 years, the NDS has provided uniform and nationally comparable indicators of WHS performance and experience. The NDS provides an unparalleled time series of information on work-related injuries and diseases in Australia.

The NDS is compiled annually from administrative data associated with workers’ compensation claims made under workers’ compensation laws. NDS data has an approximate two-year lag time due to the time needed to process claims, and code and compile a national dataset. In 2018–19, the latest available NDS data was for claims lodged in 2016–17.

In 2018–19, we published the Australian workers’ compensation statistics 2016–17 report. This annual report summarises statistics from the NDS for non-fatal workers’ compensation claims by key employment and demographic characteristics. The report continues to show a significant decrease in the incidence rate of serious claims over the past decade: from 13.4 claims per 1,000 employees in 2007–08 to 9.3 claims per 1,000 employees in 2016–17.

Fatality data collections

We compile the TIF dataset, the most comprehensive and accurate source of work-related traumatic injury fatalities data in Australia.

The TIF contains information about all work-related injury fatalities that occur in Australia, drawing from a range of sources including:

  • notified fatalities from WHS jurisdictional authorities
  • the NDS, which holds information on compensated fatalities resulting from injuries
  • the National Coronial Information System, which includes records of all unexpected fatalities in Australia, and
  • media reporting.

In 2018–19, we published the Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2017 report, which provides comprehensive statistics on work-related traumatic injury fatalities in Australia, including both workers and bystanders. Information for this report was sourced from the TIF collection and showed that the fatality rate of workers has decreased by 48 per cent, from a peak of 3.0 per 100,000 workers in 2007 to 1.5 in 2017.

We also compile data on fatalities associated with the use of quad bikes, which is published on the QuadWatch page on the Safe Work Australia website. This is because every year quad bikes are a major cause of death and serious injury in rural workplaces with many incidents associated with rollovers. In 2018 there were 11 quad bike fatalities, 45 per cent of which were work-related.

Comparative performance monitoring

In 2018–19 we published the CPM report (20th edition) Parts 1–3, which contains the latest NDS data and reports on jurisdictional performance against agreed indicators. The report provides trend analysis on WHS and workers’ compensation schemes operating in Australia and New Zealand and discusses the way that each scheme deals with key aspects such as coverage, benefits, self-insurance, common law and dispute resolution.

We also released the Comparison of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand (2018) to complement the CPM report. Like the CPM, the report provides information about workers’ compensation arrangements and the differences between schemes in Australia and New Zealand.

Australian Mesothelioma Registry

The agency funds the AMR, a stand-alone database that contains information about people with mesothelioma, compiled by the AIHW. The AMR includes all new cases of mesothelioma diagnosed from 1 July 2010 in Australia, as well as information about asbestos exposure collected through a questionnaire and interview.

The AIHW draws on the AMR to produce an annual report on the incidence of mesothelioma in Australia, which is published on the AIHW website. The 2018 report indicates that on average more than 700 Australians are diagnosed with mesothelioma each year. The AMR is a key source of data and information that allows policy makers to better understand trends in mesothelioma diagnosis, and the links with asbestos exposure.

Other reports

In addition to the major statistical reports listed above, in 2018–19 we also published the Key work health and safety statistics, Australia 2018. This was our most popular evidence product of 2018–19, with over 33,000 views and downloads. The report provides a high-level overview of the latest new national work-related injury, disease and fatality statistics from the TIF and NDS datasets.

Statistical enquiries service

Another way we make our data accessible is through our statistical enquiries service. In 2018–19, we responded to around 500 statistical enquiries from a range of stakeholders, including governments, journalists, academics and the general public. The majority of the requests required a bespoke response, and contributed to government policy work, media publications and research.

Outlook for 2019–20

Over the next 12 months we will continue to work with our stakeholders to lead and undertake national research and analysis on WHS and workers’ compensation, and deliver our core data functions. This includes aligning our work to the Australian Strategy and the National Return to Work Strategy 2020–2030, and conducting research and analysis to address priority industries and disorders, emerging issues and priority groups.

We will continue to improve our existing datasets and build new ones. We are starting work to increase the data we capture in the fatalities database, and build a new National Work Health and Safety Prosecutions Database. This new database will give policy makers access to aggregated, detailed information on WHS prosecutions and resulting penalties. It will also enable more detailed research, analysis and reporting on prosecutions. We will also continue to explore opportunities to make improvements to the National Return to Work Survey.

In 2019–20, we will also lead a major international project aimed at building a better international evidence base in WHS, by sharing expertise across G20 member countries on WHS data and research, and improving the comparability of international data. This is an exciting opportunity to compare our data and research with other countries, and to share international best practice.