Article by: Hari Yellina
Across Australia’s agriculture sector, a safety mindset must continue at the forefront. According to the most recent farm safety data, the number of on-farm fatalities in Australia reduced by 20% in 2021 compared to 2020. These findings reflect the sector’s hard work, which includes new rules, research and development, technical breakthroughs, and safety role models, all of which lead to a stronger overall safety culture. This does not, however, imply that we should become complacent.
According to the annual study “Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia 2021” issued by AgHealth Australia and financed by AgriFutures Australia, there were 46 on-farm deaths from January 1 to December 31, 2021, compared to 58 on-farm deaths in the same time in 2020. Tractors, quad bikes, and side-by-sides were the three most commonly reported sources of injury, accounting for 56% of all deaths on farms. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of quad bike fatalities is said to have decreased from 14 to 9. However, the number of tractor and side-by-side accidents has been remarkably consistent.
Another critical factor to track with farm safety statistics is age. In 2021, there were 27 fatalities among individuals aged 45 and up, and six fatalities among children aged 14 and under. Moreover, in the previous year, there were 36 fatalities in the over-45 age group and eight in the 14 and under age group. While it’s great to see the numbers moving in the right direction, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. This is due to the fact that statistics are more than just numbers. They signify the loss of human lives and the resulting devastation in our agrarian communities. In fact, one casualty on the farm is too many.
At every meeting, the first item on the agenda should be safety, which includes reporting events, discussing near misses, identifying risks for forthcoming activities, and ensuring that all concerns are voiced and handled. We must instil in all of our enterprises a philosophy that puts safety first, every time. It’s about incorporating a culture across the industry that says, “We look after ourselves and each other.” This is why, as a collaborative Rural Research and Development Corporation initiative led by AgriFutures Australia, the Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA) exists, and why it continues to work hard to enhance the health and safety performance of Australia’s rural industries.
The harsh reality is that most accidents and injuries are avoidable and work health and safety (WHS) is a major issue in Australian agriculture. Although we are making progress, there is still a long way to go before we report zero deaths and emotional anguish due to non-intentional farm injuries across Australia. Each of us must begin each day knowing that we have done – and will continue to do – everything possible to keep ourselves, our families, and our coworkers safe at work.