Unveiling the alarming truths of farm safety in Australia

21 July 2023

Safety is not a sexy topic. In my experience, the word safety cues rolled eyes. Or it’s the precursor to a long explanation about how agriculture is somehow different from every other industry, and safety is not something farmers can be expected to prioritise.

In 2022, fifty-five Australians lost their lives on Australian farms. Agriculture continues to be the most dangerous Australian industry to work in, with more fatalities per 100,000 workers, than any other.

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Since becoming Chair of Farmsafe Australia, I’ve learnt these, and many more alarming statistics around farm safety. How many people die on farms. How many of those people are children. The financial impact of a serious injury on farm.

Between 2001 and 2020, there were 1584 unintentional farm fatalities across Australia. Men account for 88% of those deaths.

230 were children between the ages of 0-14.

Between 2008 and 2018, the annual impact of work-related illnesses and injury in Tasmanian agriculture on gross regional product was $12 million.

That’s just a few of statistics that keep me up at night.

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This year’s Farm Safety Week (17-21 July 2013) theme is Stay on the Safe Side. The focus of the week is tractor and machinery safety. Farm vehicle or mobile farm machinery were agents in 64% of farm fatalities in 2022. Tractors were the agent in 20% of fatalities. These numbers sadden me. Agriculture is a fantastic industry, filled with opportunity and innovation, but until we can keep our people safe, I don’t believe we will attract or retain the workforce our industry requires to truly thrive.

At Farmsafe Australia, we work with our member organisations, including the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers’ Association and Primary Employers Tasmania, to reach farmers, families, and rural communities around Australia with a message of safety. This Farm Safety Week, Farmsafe Australia asks farmers to choose to Stay on the Safe Side.

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With every decision throughout every working day, farmers can choose to value their safety, and the safety of those around them, or they can choose to take unnecessary risks.

It might mean choosing to walk across a steep paddock, rather than ride the quad bike. It might mean choosing to hold off using the slasher until the cracked PTO guard is replaced. It might mean choosing to knock off at 4pm, rather than finishing the job, because you’re so knackered you’re not thinking straight. Whatever decision you are faced with, you can choose to stay on the safe side, and minimise the risk of injury, or even death.

It may not be a sexy topic, but at Farmsafe Australia, we will continue to talk about farm safety, and hope that you will too.