Ag fatalities ‘too high’
Campaign to address alarming industry stats
DESPITE making up only 2.6% of the Australian workforce, the agricultural industry accounted for 21% of worker fatalities between 2010 and 2014, according to a SafeWork Australia report.
In that five-year span 221 agricultural workers were killed on the job, giving the industry a fatality rate of 14.8 per 100,000 workers.
This is almost eight times higher than the rate of all industries at 1.9 per 100,000 and much greater than every other industry according to the figures.
The industry statistics were compiled by the Australian Bureau of statistics and SafeWork Australia.
Manager for the Agricultural Unit of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland Fiona O’Sullivan said the department was always looking to address those alarming statistics.
“Workplace Health and Safety Queensland has established a dedicated agricultural unit to focus on the industry,” Mrs O’Sullivan said.
“A team of inspectors and advisors work with the stakeholders to design and deliver compliance and education programs in high risk areas state-wide.”
The fatality rate is also declining at a slower rate than the national average with a 24% drop from 2003 to 2014 in comparison to 41% for all other industries.
“The agriculture industry is high risk,” Mrs O’Sullivan said.
“A combination of working in isolated areas in an ever changing environment with heavy machinery or animals makes it so.
“Many farmers retain older machinery and don’t follow a strict maintenance schedule. There is also an embedded culture in the industry to ‘have a go’ which can lead to innovation but unfortunately safety is not always a top priority.”
The State Government has launched an ad safety campaign tackling the high fatality rate in agriculture and Queensland Farmers Federation President Stuart Armitage welcomes it.
“Safety in any workplace is vitally important,” Mr Armitage said.
“Continuous government, industry and community discussion on how we can all do better is essential to addressing bad practice and changing entrenched cultural attitudes to farm safety.”
The highest percentage of agricultural fatalities in numbers alone is sheep, cattle and grain farming with 65.2%.
Queensland is second nationally for fatalities per 100,000 with a rate of 19.2% and second for percentage of agricultural fatalities at 27.6%.
It was found that 76% of agricultural fatalities involved vehicles.
“Many of those fatalities occur when the plant or vehicles are being maintained, not used for their intended purpose or operated by people who do not have the competency to operate them properly,” Mrs O’Sullivan said.
The agriculture industry is high risk. — Fiona O’Sullivan