Ag fa­tal­i­ties ‘too high’

Cam­paign to ad­dress alarm­ing in­dus­try stats

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE | FENCE POST - Adam McCleery

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

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