Evaluation of the sheep and beef cattle farming project 2016-2017


The Agriculture industry group is one of the high-risk industries for the Australian Work Health Safety (WHS) Strategy (2012-2022). In NSW, the Sheep and Beef Cattle Farming (SBCF) industry presents the highest risk of serious injury within this sector. In the three years to 2010/2011 workplace injuries and occupational diseases cost the NSW workers compensation scheme a total of $45.7 million.

To address these concerns the SBCF project was developed as a priority under the Safework NSW (SWNSW) Focus on Industry (FOI) program. Over a two-year period from 2013-15, Sheep and  Beef Cattle (SBC) farmers were provided with support and assistance to improve their awareness of Work Health and Safety and Return to Work (WHS and RTW) responsibilities; assist them to make safety improvements; and provide farmers with access to SafeWork NSW products and services to address risks.

The project delivered a number of legacies to the sector including:

  • an $18 million rebate program involving approximately $30m of safety improvements (93 per cent in long-term infrastructure for future farmers),
  • research and a subsequent project about safety and stability of quad bikes - NSW Quad Bike Safety Improvement program
  • 880 inspector visits, 519 farmer interactions at 9 farm safety days, and 1800 interactions at industry field days
  • a micro site, Alive & Well, was developed to showcase farmers talking to farmers about WHS on farms.

A comprehensive evaluation of the project was conducted to assess the effectiveness of the project. The evaluation included both a survey and analysis of information provided through inspector visits. The purpose of the evaluation was to measure improved awareness and compliance in relation to the key risks impacting on farmers.

Evaluation findings

The SBCF project promoted awareness of the key project risks through interactions with farmers at Industry Field Days, Farm Safety Days, Inspector Visits and industry events. SafeWork NSW collaborated with industry partners to deliver demonstrations, discussions, presentations and guidance materials aimed at raising farmer awareness of the risks and the safety solutions to address these. Farmers were also provided with access to the SBCF and Small Business Rebates to support and assist the sector to make safety improvements.

Farmers reported high levels of satisfaction with SWNSW products, the delivery of services and believe this has caused an increase in their awareness to WHS and RTW duties.

Another key finding was that the project significantly improved the relationship between SafeWork NSW, key stakeholders and farmers.

Awareness of key risks - results

Animal handling

  • 85 per cent of SBC farmers surveyed and 89 per cent of the farmers visited made WHS changes as a result of accessing SafeWork NSW products and services.
  • 94 per cent of survey respondents and 88 per cent (visits) have their pen and yards maintained in good working condition.
  • Farmers are being connected to industry Experts at industry field events such as Tocal and are accessing the ‘Working with Livestock Factsheet’


  • 89 per cent of farmers surveyed and 92 per cent visited indicate that operators are aware of the risks involving tractor use.
  • 91 per cent of farmers surveyed and 99 per cent visited maintain their tractors regularly.
  • Tractors are fitted with Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) – 86 per cent survey, and 95 per cent visits.

Quad bikes

  • Operators are aware of the risks involving quad bike use - 67 per cent surveys, 98 per cent visits,
  • Operators are trained to operate quad bikes safely – 42 per cent surveys, 57 per cent visits,

Zoonoses (animal diseases)

  • Hand washing facilities are provided after animal handling before handling food to prevent the transmission of animal diseases – 87 per cent survey and 93 per cent visits,
  • Vaccination program for animals – 81 per cent survey and 82 per cent visits,
  • PPE (e.g. gloves, masks, waterproof boots, overalls) to protect farmers, 54 per cent survey and 59 per cent visits.

Noise exposure

  • Providing personal hearing protectors, such as ear muffs or ear plugs – 95 per cent survey and 93 per cent visits.

Sun exposure

  • Provide/encourage broad brim hats to limit sun exposure – 90  per cent survey and 97 per cent visits
  • Provide/encourage the use of sunscreen – 78 per cent surveyed and 87 per cent visited
  • Provide/encourage protective long sleeve clothing – at least 73 per cent of farmers surveyed and visited,

Injury management and return to work

Farmer awareness of their obligations to assist injured farmers back to work is high. However, there are few systems in place to facilitate this.

There is a heavy reliance on the treating doctors, physiotherapists and farm owners to assist injured workers back to work.

Further information

For a copy of the full report please contact gipa@safework.nsw.gov.au

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