New study says farm safety hasn't improved in 15 years

Quad bikes feature heavily in fatal farm accidents.
Quad bikes feature heavily in fatal farm accidents.

New data shows there has been no improvement in the fatality rate for agriculture in NSW for 15 years.

A paper published in Public Health Research and Practice, says there has been a constant fatality rate of  17.3 per 100 000 workers from 2001-2015.

Of the 367 fatalities in NSW where the cause was known, almost 60 per cent were work related.  The leading causes were tractors, quads and farm machinery and utes. The majority of cases involved males (87.8pc), with deaths most frequent in those aged 60–74 years (22.4pc) and 45–59 years (20.3pc). Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for 13pc of cases.

“The lack of continued reductions in non-intentional fatal injury in the agriculture sector in NSW is of serious concern and suggests that alternative approaches are required,” the authors Tony Lower, Margaret Rolfe and Noeline Monaghan say. 

“Although direct cause and effect cannot be attributed, it may be contended that the removal of injury prevention as a core priority of health services in NSW, accompanied by a divestment of resources to support community interventions, has contributed to these results.

“A significant concern is the levelling off in both work and all-cause fatality rates. Further, the agricultural work-related fatality rate in NSW remains almost 12 times higher than the 2014 all-industry rate for NSW (1.46 per 100 000 workers), suggesting that significant improvements can be made.”

Related: National quad bike safety ratings to be introduced

NSW Farmers safety spokesperson Matthew Waring said : “One death in the agriculture industry is one death too many”.

“The  Association holds industrial relations and business workshop across the state dealing with workplace health and safety. NSW Farmers also works closely with Safework NSW and the government to promote the importance of a safe workplace. A recent example of this is the quad bike messaging and rebate program, along with new initiatives that the association is talking to Safework NSW about and hope to launch in 2018.

“Simple steps can be taken by farmers to reduce the number and severity accidents on farm including conducting simple risks assessments each time you use a piece of plant, or inspecting work areas on a routine basis to identify items that may need replacing or maintenance. Something as easy as a checklist could save a life or a limb.”

More people working in agriculture die than in the construction and mining industries combined, data has revealed. SafeWork Australia said 43 Australians had died from accidents in agriculture, fishing and forestry industries this year, which came a close second to transport industry deaths.