A priority industry

The agriculture industry is a focus area of the Australian work health and safety strategy 2012- 2022 6 due to the sector’s high rates of death, injury and disease.

The agriculture industry is a focus area of the Australian work health and safety strategy 2012- 2022 6 due to the sector’s high rates of death, injury and disease. Farming accounts 7 for one in every five worker deaths while making up just 2.6 per cent of the Australian workforce.

NSW from a national perspective

The true cost of injury and illness may be even higher, as certain diseases can take a long time to appear. Injury and illness also impact families and communities, particularly when children and young people are involved in farming incidents.

Between 8 2010 and 2014, the NSW agriculture sector had the most worker deaths of all Australian states and territories (62 deaths) and the fourth highest fatality rate. The annual cost 9 of injuries was $31 million. Anecdotal evidence suggests that injuries within the industry are significantly underreported meaning this number could be much higher.

Industry consultation and identifying high impact harms

To guide the development of the Agriculture plan, a program of workshops was held with industry representatives and farmers.

Industry determined that the plan should focus on an agreed list of high impact harms including:

  • verifying that the death and injury data reflects the on–farm risk profile
  • identifying emerging issues at the commodity and regional level
  • identifying what practical solutions for farm managers and workers could look like
  • describing strategies to assist farmers achieve a minimum safety standard on all farms (safety landscape)
  • describing what practical regulation looks like for farmers
  • providing ideas as to how SafeWork NSW can better support farmers and farm workers to improve farm safety.

Towards zero

Additionally, there was majority support for focusing on a small number of harms that continue to be over represented in causing fatalities and serious injuries. These include not wearing helmets on quad bikes; tractors without rollover protective structures (ROPs) and unguarded power take-off drives (PTOs) and auger intakes. Industry was clear that the current acceptance of these easily addressed risks does not match the values and attitudes of the modern professional farmer. Action is required to eliminate or significantly reduce these harms. Accordingly work will be undertaken to:

  • make the wearing of helmets on quad bikes an accepted practice
  • fit ROPs to all tractors
  • ensure all PTO drives used on farms are guarded
  • guard all auger intakes.
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