Farm injury claims fell by more than 14 per cent in the past 12 months and are now at a 10-year low, according to new figures released today by the Victorian WorkCover Authority.
Farmers and their employees made 401 claims in 2013, a fall of more than 14 per cent on the 467 claims made in 2012.
But farming remains one of the most high-risk industries in the state. Over the past decade, 53 people have died in workplace incidents on Victorian farms while almost 4600 farmers or their employees have been injured seriously enough since 2004 to make a WorkCover claim.
VWA executive director of health and safety, Len Neist, said while the significant fall in injury claims was pleasing, the number of claims remained far too high.
“A farm is just like any other workplace, and farmers need to ensure the same proactive approach to safety is adopted,” he said.
“Although the number of reported injuries on farms is at its lowest for the past 10 years, it’s concerning that more than 400 injuries occurred last year. So it remains vital that farmers and those who work on farms are always vigilant when it comes to workplace safety.”
The majority of farm-related injuries reported in 2013 were for body-stressing injuries, such as strains and sprains, and injuries where workers were hit by a moving object. Slips, trips and falls accounted for more than 22 per cent of injuries.
Mr Neist said that unguarded machinery, untidy workshops, poorly stored chemicals and inattention when it came to manoeuvring vehicles were among the most common safety issues identified.
“The key to keeping farm work safe is effective planning and using the right equipment for the job,” he said.
Mr Neist said older farmers continued to be overrepresented in the number of farm fatalities each year. “So it’s important that if you are heading out on the tractor for the day, or fencing in the back paddock, to let someone know where you’ll be.”
Mr Neist also said that it was also important farmers and workers only completed work for which they had the proper training and skill to carry out.
“Specialised services should always be engaged in work which is outside of the farmers’ expertise or knowledge,” he said.
As farmers across the state prepare for National Farm Safety Week, which runs from 21–25 July 2014, Mr Neist offered these farm safety suggestions:
If you’re planning a day on the land, let someone know where you will be.
Ensure all plant and machinery is switched off and disengaged when undertaking maintenance.
Ensure machinery is properly secured and supported when undertaking maintenance underneath.
Plan your work and engage the services of specialists where required.
Keep up to date with workplace house-keeping, including storing chemicals appropriately and cleaning up spills.
Be aware of fumes when working in workshops.
Be vigilant when manoeuvring vehicles and machinery.
Injury claims made to the VWA
2004: 485 claims
2014 (to June 30): 202
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.