Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in due to the combination of hazards. These include plant, chemicals, noise, dust, sun exposure, working with animals as well as the fact many in the industry work alone or in remote locations. Between 2010 and 2014:
- More than one in five workers who died at work worked in agriculture. It has the highest fatality rate of any Australian industry (14.8 fatalities per 100,000 workers).
- Agricultural vehicles, for example tractors and quad bikes, accounted for 82 out of 221 (37%) worker deaths.
Agriculture: a snapshot
- The sector has the highest proportion of self-employed workers (46%) of any industry.
- It employs a higher proportion of older workers than any other industry (16% are aged 65 and over).
- There are many hazards on farms that are less common in other workplaces, such as:
- augers, tractors, motorbikes and quad bikes
- chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers
- extreme weather conditions.
- Farm workers often work alone:
- lifting heavy loads or operating machinery by themselves
- have fewer opportunities for sharing practices, observing and learning from others
- help or first aid isn’t always nearby if an incident occurs
- farms may be remote, without mobile phone coverage.
Fatalities in agriculture
Vehicles account for over 75% of workplace deaths and are often caused by:
- quad bikes.
Other common causes of worker fatalities include:
- being struck by an animal (usually cattle)
- falling from a horse
- accidental shooting.
Types and causes of injury
The most common types of injury are traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries, followed by wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage, and fractures.
The most common causes of injury are body stressing, being hit by moving objects and falls, trips and slips.
- Animals are involved in around 20% of serious injuries.
Work health and safety duties
Farm owners and managers need to protect their workers.
Under the WHS Regulations, owners and managers need to make sure that workers and other people on the farm are not exposed to risks to their health and safety.
The best ways to protect workers Include:
- Eliminate hazards, which means getting rid of things that can kill or hurt workers. If that is not possible then you must minimise the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Choose the safest equipment for your farm’s needs and ensure it is well maintained.
- Choose the safest chemicals and closely follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Ensure all workers and visitors know about the risks on the farm and how to manage these.
- Ensure workers have the skills to work safely, for example when handling animals and using farm equipment.
- Closely supervise new and inexperienced workers.
Quad bikes and tractors
- All tractors should be fitted with rollover protection.
- Safe tractor access platforms can prevent serious injury or death from tractor run-over.
- Rollovers are a major risk. Don’t ride or drive across steep slopes.
- Don’t overload the bike or tractor or use it for things it is not meant to do.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a quad bike.
- Ask about animal handling practices to make sure you know how protect yourself, as animals can be unpredictable or dangerous.
- Take the time to ensure animals are restrained properly before you handle them.
- If you handle livestock in pens or yards, make sure these are designed so you can’t be trapped or crushed.
- ensure you are in a safe position when loading or unloading animals
- check you have a clear escape route
- ensure latches, bolts and chains on gates work properly.
- Avoid working alone when loading or unloading stock.
- When working inside, for example in a shearing shed, make sure there is enough light to see what you are doing.
- Reduce the risk of distraction, for example using a mobile phone when working with livestock.
- Wear appropriate clothing and PPE.
- Have a first aid kit near the area of work.
- Horses pose a significant safety risk at work. Many workers have been killed or injured by falling from a horse or being bitten, struck or kicked by one.
SWA is not a regulator and cannot advise you about safety compliance in the agriculture industry. If you need help, please contact your state or territory work health and safety authority.