As a bill to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission returns to the political spotlight, what would be the impact of the return of the ABCC on safety in the construction industry? Construction is usually the fourth worst industry for workplace fatalities (behind agriculture, transport and mining, respectively) and in 2015, 33 workers died in the sector, according to data released in recent days by Safe Work Australia.

The data allows us to have a look at the long-term trend in fatalities in the construction sector as a proportion of the overall workforce, and a pattern plainly emerges — a downward trend in construction sector fatalities that commenced before the ABCC was established by the Howard government was halted and reversed while the original ABCC operated, and then resumed after it was “neutered” (to use the word of former ABCC head, hardline IR reform advocate John Lloyd) by Labor.


If construction sector deaths return to the average level of the ABCC years, it will mean an extra 10 deaths a year. — Bernard Keane