Farmers are far more likely to die at work than any other Victorian worker.
That simple but shocking fact is at the heart of a compelling new public awareness campaign to be launched next week.
According to WorkSafe statistics, almost 30 per cent of all workplace deaths in Victoria occur on farms, despite the fact that agriculture employs just 3 per cent of Victorian workers. As well, 10 farmers every week are injured seriously enough to make a worker’s compensation claim.
The new campaign will highlight agriculture’s deadly toll and call on farmers to reduce workplace risks by taking a few moments to think about safety before beginning a task or project.
According to WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, farmers needed to make safety a permanent part of their daily routine.
“Effective planning, using the right equipment, operating machinery safely; these are simple, everyday measures that can change a life in an instant,” Ms Williams said. “It doesn’t take much but it can mean the difference between life and death.”
Ms Williams said of all farm fatalities in recent years, experienced farmers doing routine tasks were a significant high-risk group. She said there were a number of reasons for this.
“Farmers work with a range of heavy machinery and usually work alone and a long way from help if an incident occurs. Financial pressures can also mean that many work long hours or potentially cut corners with maintenance,” Ms Williams said.
“Farming has many routines and farmers often need to do the same task the same way, day-in, day-out. But, over time, complacency can creep in and that can prove deadly.”
Tractors and quad bikes were involved in a significant number of fatalities each year, Ms Williams said.
“Following a fatality, it’s not uncommon for investigators to discover that the tractor wasn’t well maintained, or it was being used for the wrong purpose, or the farmer was doing something he had done a hundred times before, which could suggest a loss of concentration.
“The same applies to quad bikes, which is why WorkSafe last month made a decision to accept rollover protection devices as a means of controlling the risk to operators in the event of a rollover.”
Ms Williams said the new campaign was designed to provoke discussion in the farming community about the need for all farmers to re-assess their systems of work with safety as their number one priority.
“While WorkSafe continues to promote the importance of safety to farming communities through education campaigns, promotional work at field days, and on farm inspections, it is up to every farming family to make safety the most important part of their daily lives,” she said.
“With the help of the farming community, we hope this campaign will change the current story of death and injury that remains such a dark cloud over Victoria’s renowned agricultural sector.”
The public awareness campaign will appear in print and digital media, on radio and outdoor sites from 3 April.
For more information about on-farm safety visit worksafe.vic.gov.au/farmsafety
Public enquiries: Call the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Friday, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Advisory Service, PO Box 4306, Melbourne, 3001.