This week is National Farm Safety Week (21-26 July), a time to raise awareness of farm safety issues across Australia.
Farm Safety Week aims to highlight some of the practical steps farmers can take to improve worker health and safety on farms.
Some of the hazards faced by agricultural workers include working with animals, working alone or in remote locations, plants, noise, chemicals and dusts.
Figures from Safe WorK Australia show the agriculture industry made up 2.3% of the workforce but accounted for 23% of workplace fatalities in 2015-16. On average, 41 workers in the industry were killed each year from 2005 to 2015. Safe Work Australia figures show 3,015 serious claims were made during the same period.
Vehicles account for over 75% of workplace deaths and are often caused by quad bikes, farm vehicles and aircrafts. Other common causes of worker fatalities include being struck by an animal (usually cattle), falls from horses and accidental shooting.
Recent figures from Safe Work Australia show 17 workers in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry have been killed since the beginning of this year.
Agriculture is listed as a priority industry by The Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022, and efforts to improve work health and safety outcomes in the agriculture sector are ongoing.
According to Safe Work Australia, some of the best ways to protect workers include:
- Eliminating hazards – things that can kill or hurt workers. If that’s not possible, minimize the risks so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Choosing the safest equipment for your farm’s needs and maintaining it.
- Choosing the safest chemicals and closely following the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Ensure all workers and visitors know about the risks on the farm and how to manage them.
- Ensure workers have the skills to work safely, for example when handling animals and using farm equipment.
- Closely supervise new and inexperienced workers.