April 26, 2013 by Michael B. Stack
With plenty of land to farm, one might think most farmlands in Australia are safe for those working the soil.
As it turns out, however, a new report sheds light on some of the inherent dangers facing those working farms.
According to a recent report from Safe Work Australia, one in half-a-dozen employees who were fatally injured in Australia were working on a farm. The report monitored statistics over an eight-year period until June 30, 2011.
The major findings of the Work-related injuries and fatalities on Australian farms were reported by Safe Work Australia Chair, Ann Sherry AO. She stated that the figure was staggering considering only 3 percent of workers are employed in the agriculture sector.
“On average 44 farm workers are killed each year and another 17,400 suffer a work-related injury,” Sherry said. “This is a significant number of injuries and deaths occurring within the agriculture sector. While the statistics themselves are alarming, they don’t reflect the many more families, work colleagues and communities who are affected by a farm-related fatality or injury.
Vehicles Have Major Role in Work-Related Deaths
Other key findings from the report include:
● Vehicles accounted for nearly three quarters of work-related fatalities on farms.
○ In the eight years of the study 93 workers died while using a tractor. Half of these workers were aged 65 years and over one-third of the deaths involved a rollover.
○ Aircraft incidents while undertaking tasks such as mustering or crop dusting claimed the lives of 48 workers.
○ Quad bikes were involved in 27 fatalities of which 20 were due to a rollover.
● Almost one-third of work-related fatalities on Australian farms involved workers aged 65 years or over. This is nearly three times the proportion the age group represents of all worker fatalities in Australian workplaces.
● Young farm workers had more hospitalizations for a motorbike or horse-related incident while older workers had more hospitalizations from contact with machinery.
● Only half of Australian agriculture workers are covered by workers’ compensation as 46 percent are self-employed. The report showed that nearly one in four workers’ compensation claims were due to working with animals, one in five were from working with mobile plant and transport including motorbikes and nearly one in five were from working with non-powered tools and equipment.
In analyzing the information it garnered, Safe Work Australia has identified the agriculture sector as one of its priorities under the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 and is working with regulators, industry, unions and the farming community to find practical and cost effective ways to reduce the hazards farmers and their workers face on a daily basis. This might include incentives from regulators to adopt safer plant and increased awareness raising activities in this sector.
Some of the risks and hazards being addressed at the national level in the farming sector are use of quad bikes and labeling of pesticides. Quad bike safety is being addressed through consultation on the fitting of crush protection devices to quad bikes and restricting the use of quad bikes by children.
Recent changes to pesticide labeling requirements unveiled under the new harmonized Work Health and Safety Regulations will bring greater consistency with labels of hazardous workplace chemicals in other sectors. This change aims to bring greater awareness of the hazards of farm chemicals and result in improved safety outcomes from chemical handling on farms.
Finally, work health and safety regulators across Australia are also seeking to improve work health and safety in the agriculture section and decrease these alarming statistics.
Author Michael B. Stack, CPA, Director of Operations, Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. is an expert in employer communication systems and part of the Amaxx team helping companies reduce their workers compensation costs by 20% to 50%. He is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. www.reduceyourworkerscomp.com. Contact: email@example.com.
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