Health and safety is a vital issue on farms

Last week was National Farm Safety Week in Australia. One of the key focuses this year was the safety of older workers. 

In 2013 nearly half of the fatalities (49 per cent) in Australian workplaces took place in the agriculture, transport, postal and warehousing, and forestry and fishing industries, according to a July 2014 report from Safe Work Australia, entitled Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2013.

Furthermore, farm workers accounted for 18 per cent of deaths in the workplace during 2013. This figure includes 24 farm managers and 11 farm labourers.

The report found self-employed workers were at a greater risk. Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of fatalities over the 2003-2013 period within the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry involved self-employed workers who were 65 years of age or older.

When all industries are taken into consideration Queensland had 50 worker fatalities in 2013 (26 per cent of the overall figure), which was the second highest number of fatalities behind New South Wales with 53 deaths (28 per cent). 

Another Safe Work Australia report, Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian farms, found that Queensland had the highest proportion of workers in the agriculture and fishing support services (28 per cent). The report also looked at bystander fatalities in farms over an eight-year period (2003-04 to 2010-11).

There were 14 bystander deaths in Queensland over this period. All 14 of these deaths were children. Seven children drowned and six either fell from a vehicle or were hit by one. 

Safe Work Australia’s Acting Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter said in a July press release that farms have particular requirements when considering the health and safety measures needed. Farms have multiple functions as places of employment and as family homes where children are often present in a work setting. 

“National Farm Safety Week is a timely reminder to highlight the importance for farmers and the communities that they live and work in to not become complacent about their own health and safety,” said Ms Baxter.

“There needs to be robust processes in place to protect farmers and those who enter the farm environment.”

National Farm Safety Week is organised by Farmsafe Australia in the hopes of raising the importance, understanding and the profile of farm safety issues in Australian rural communities. 

If you own a farm, health and safety is an important issue. Talk to an employment lawyer about your health and safety obligations as an employer.