Agriculture still the most dangerous workplace in Australia

Colin Jackson Farm-Safe

FORTY-FOUR workers from the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector died on the job in 2016, according to new statistics from Safe Work Australia — and maintains the agriculture sector’s dubious title of being the nation’s most dangerous workplace. Chairman of the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP), Patrick Murphy, said it’s a figure the industry needs to address as a matter of priority. “This makes the fatality rate (per 100,000 workers) of men and women working in the sector the highest of any other industry in Australia,” Mr Murphy said. “This is a truly alarming statistic, and while October is acknowledged as National Safe Work Month, it’s time for every day to be considered ‘safe work day’.” The agriculture, forestry and fishing sector also garnered the most serious claims for injuries sustained on the job (per million hours worked). According to Mr Murphy, the direct and indirect costs of work-related illnesses, injuries and deaths are significant. “The Safe Work Australia report estimates that a total of $61.8 billion was lost in 2012-13,” he said. “Further to that, overall statistics for 2015-2016 show the average amount of time lost due to injury is 5.2 weeks. “This is an issue that …

High-tech biosecurity hub to protect the north

Colin Jackson Current News, Dairy, Enviro-Safe, Farm-Safe, Horticulture, Livestock, Sugar

A NEW biosecurity hub to guard against foreign pests and diseases will be built in Darwin as part of an $8 million joint project by the Australian and Northern Territory Governments. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Australian Government was delivering $3.5 million to create a cutting-edge biosecurity hub at the NT Government’s Berrimah Farm facility in Darwin, plus $500,000 to fight bluetongue virus. “The new biosecurity hub will be more than ten times the size of the current facility, and will house the latest technology in molecular diagnostics, a technique to diagnose and monitor disease and detect risk,” Minister Joyce. “This significant investment in biosecurity in the north, under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, will support faster testing of potential biosecurity threats as they emerge. This includes quickly separating local, sometimes beneficial, insects from exotic fruit flies that could devastate our horticulture exports. “It also means a more effective early warning system for destructive threats, such as new banana diseases. And it means expert rapid diagnosis of exotic diseases that could cripple Australian agriculture.” Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said the improvements made possible through this joint investment, …

Quad bikes ‘the biggest killers on farms’

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Farm-Safe

THE COMMON THEMES of alcohol and no helmet use emanating from quad bike death inquests in Tasmanian has caused a Coroner to make a series of recommendations after investigating seven deaths in three years involving what he says are the biggest killers on farms. When handing down his findings, coroner Simon Cooper said the use of quad bikes should be of “general concern to society.” The inquest, held in 2016, examined seven Tasmanian quad bike deaths between November 2012 and December 2015. It heard four people had been drinking alcohol, five were not wearing helmets and one was carrying a pillion passenger when they should not have been. He also called for a ban on young children riding quad bikes Mr Cooper made eight recommendations in his report, most of which were focused on tightening and developing legislation surrounding the vehicles’ use. He said mandatory training and licensing measures needed to be established, and he recommended banning children under six from “ever operating any quad bike in any circumstances whatsoever.” Mr Cooper found helmets were not widely used because they seemed to be regarded, particularly in rural settings, as “unnecessary, impractical, uncomfortable and perhaps too hot.” In four of the cases being …

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Farm safety centre stage this week

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Farm-Safe

AS 2017 National Farm Safety Week gets underway, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Luke Hartsuyker, has encouraged farmers and rural workers to keep their safety, health and wellbeing front and centre all year round. “Agriculture is the biggest employer in our rural and regional communities, so farm safety should be a priority for everyone in the sector,” Minister Hartsuyker said. “From vehicular and tractor safety, to working with chemicals and animals, to dealing with stress and mental health issues or the safety of older farmers and children—farming can be a high risk job. “National Farm Safety Week is an important opportunity to start a dialogue—both at home and in the workplace­—across the farming sector and in regional communities. “While the government will continue to work closely with industry and peak work safe bodies to address farm safety, it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure farm health and safety is treated as a priority and that proactive steps are taken to recognise warning signs and mitigate any risks. “One of 2017 National Farm Safety Week’s main focuses is quad and vehicle safety, given tractors, other machinery and quad bikes are the leading causes of deaths on farms. “In 2016, quad …

Rebate encourages substitution of unsafe vehicles in NSW

Colin Jackson Enviro-Safe, Farm-Safe

THE NSW Government has launched a $2 million rebate package to encourage farmers to either replace quad bikes with safer vehicles like side-by-side vehicles, or fit them with operator protective devices. Farmers could also use their rebates of up to $500 each to buy compliant helmets or undertake training courses. Dr Tony Lower, director of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, applauded the move, saying it would “fast-track action” to reduce the high number of “needless injuries and deaths” from quad bike incidents. “Quads have been the leading cause of on-farm fatalities across Australia for the past five years,” Lower said. “In years gone by, the NSW tractor rebate program that supported the fitting of roll-over protection structures was amazingly successful in reducing deaths, and has also been replicated in other countries. We see no reason why this rebate as part of the larger quad safety initiative, cannot have a similarly positive impact in NSW.” NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Victor Dominello, said the development of the program was influenced by recent New South Wales and Queensland coronial inquiries into multiple quad bike fatalities, and a SafeWork NSW-commissioned study into quad bike stability, which found the …

Quad Bike Safety
New laws in Queensland mean that children under eight must “turn their backs” on quad bikes, even as passengers. 

Positive steps to save youngsters from utility vehicle trauma

Colin Jackson Current News, Enviro-Safe, Farm-Safe

NEW QUAD BIKE LAWS in Queensland making it illegal for children under eight to be carried as passengers have been heralded as a positive step towards enhanced on-farm safety by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP). The laws came in to effect this week (February 1, 2017) and also prohibit children under eight travelling as passengers in utility off-road vehicles that are used on any road. Additionally, the legislation requires all Queensland quad bike and utility off-road operators and passengers wear a motorbike helmet. Failing to comply could mean the loss of licence points or a fine of $365. PIHSP Advisory Chair Patrick Murphy said the move is a welcome one. “The incidence of loss of life and minor to serious injury as a result of quad bike use on farms is all too common,” Mr Murphy said. “Any steps to ensure the safety of the people who work or are involved in the agricultural sector and rely on the use of quad bikes are positive, especially when it comes to the younger generation. “Safe Work Australia statistics show that from 2011 to 2015, there were 97 quad bike fatalities in Australia and eight of those were children …

Video your thoughts for the enhancement of farm safety

Colin Jackson Current News, Farm-Safe

DO YOU LIVE ON A FARM? Is your family on a property? Are you working on a farm, or interested in a future in agriculture? Completing studies in the rural sector? Have a creative eye and a farm safety story to tell? The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) invites high school and university or agriculture college students aged between 13 and 21 to create and submit a video about an element of farm safety. The competition aims to raise awareness about farm safety in agriculture’s next generation, using the words (and vision) of 13- to 21-year-old people to encourage better safety behaviour among their peers, families and Australia’s broader farming sector. The video clip can be about a personal experience, something close to your heart — or about something seen or heard about that the individual wants to create some awareness around. Does it annoy you that your brother never wears a helmet when he musters on the motorbike? Have you jumped in the back of a ute without thinking — and had a near miss? Did your friends ignore the floodway markers and try to drive through anyway? Chairman of the PIHSP Advisory Panel, Patrick Murphy, said …

Play it safe riding quad bikes this holiday season

Colin Jackson Current News, Farm-Safe

YOUNG QUEENSLANDERS who ride quad bikes have been urged to play it safe over the holidays while using these powerful vehicles. Head of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Dr Simon Blackwood, said quad safety has to be the number one priority for riders and those supervising. “We don’t want to take all the fun out of riding quad bikes, but we’re simply calling on parents to watch and supervise young riders carefully to ensure nothing nasty happens,” Dr Blackwood said. “There is a much greater risk when young, inexperienced riders aren’t properly trained or supervised — when they’re allowed to ride bikes that are too big for them to handle or if they’re not wearing helmets.” Dr Blackwood asked everyone to take care riding quad bikes this festive season whether on rural properties, in the bush or on the beach. “Over the last 15 years, more than 70 people have been killed using quad bikes in Queensland,” he said. “And every year, there are around 300 quad bike related hospitalisations, 600 emergency department presentations and more than 200 ambulance attendances. “It saddens me to admit these are amongst the highest figures in Australia. “No matter how the quad’s being used, …

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Don’t give your kids the chance to stand on a stage and relate a similar experience: Shane Webcke with manager of the Agriculture Strategy Unit of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Fiona O’Sullivan.

Farm safety through the eyes of a former Broncos front rower

Colin Jackson Current News, Farm-Safe

Never allow yourself to be part of this storyAS THE final curtain came down on the 2016 annual conference of the Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) in Roma, wives, partners and daughters left with a vital message about farm safety for the farmers in their lives, with one particular motive — Shane Webcke said so. And he received a standing ovation for the message he presented. During a well-attended conference session, the former Broncos front row forward, current Channel 7 sporting commentator and ‘full-time’ farmer made an impassioned statement — sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes pointing to his own lapse of self discipline — that small mistakes can have drastic repercussions if a farm safety discipline in not adhered to. The Manager of the Agriculture Strategy Unit of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, a division of the Queensland Treasury, Fiona O’Sullivan told the conference that Shane Webcke is “cruising the state during October — Safe Work Month — having all sorts of discussions about workplace safety.” As a Safety Ambassador for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Webcke is telling his own personal story of how his father’s death had a serious impact on his entire family — and to offer his perspective …

Sorting the wheat from the chaff on farm safety

Colin Jackson Current News, Farm-Safe

DESPITE IMPROVEMENTS over the past two decades, there remain unacceptably high rates of death and injury on Australian farms. According to the outgoing Independent Chair of the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP), Gordon Gregory, the greatest risks are associated with quad bikes, tractors, other farm vehicles, unguarded machinery, hazardous manual tasks, animal handling and mustering. “In much of our agriculture, the safety challenge is compounded by the fact that there is no clear distinction between workplace and home. This can result in serious risks for children, friends and visitors,” he said. As Mr Gregory prepares to move on, a replacement champion of good health and safety for farmers is being sought by the PIHSP, with expressions of interest now being called for the position of Independent Chair. The Partnership aims to improve the health and safety of workers and their families in farming industries across Australia through investment in research, development and extension activities. It is funded by the Cotton, Grains and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, as well as the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia. The activities of the Partnership are guided by a management committee comprised of representatives of the investing partner …

Farmer ‘death’ spearheads new quad bike safety campaign

Colin Jackson Current News, Farm-Safe

A CONFRONTING public awareness campaign highlighting the risks associated with quad bike use has been launched by WorkSafe Victoria. The centrepiece of the campaign is a graphic TV commercial showing a farmer dying under a quad bike after a rollover. The campaign is the latest stage of an ongoing strategy by WorkSafe to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries associated with the use of quad bikes. In March, WorkSafe announced that rollover protection devices would be added to the list of safety measures employers would need to consider to ensure risks to quad bike operators were minimised. The strategy was given a boost in July when the Victorian Government announced a $6 million rebate scheme that would provide farmers with either $600 to fit rollover protection on their quad bike or $1,200 towards buying an alternative work vehicle. Finance Minister Robin Scott said WorkSafe’s new campaign would help raise awareness among farmers about the risks of quad bike rollovers and encourage them to make use of the rebate scheme. “Too many Victorians have been killed or injured while riding a quad bike, and the Government is determined to do what it can to reduce this terrible toll,” Mr Scott …

Court case highlights ad hoc farm safety can have serious implications

Colin Jackson Farm-Safe

A COURT CASE in Tasmania where young British backpacker, Holly Raper, was rendered quadraplegic with catastrophic brain injuries while riding a quad bike on a King Island farm raises an urgent warning about farm safety — considering that agriculture is potentially the most dangerous business in Australia to be involved in. Under Workplace Health and Safety legislation, ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ must exercise due diligence to ensure that all reasonably practicable steps are taken to ensure workplace health and safety. For the agricultural industry, what may have been a normal, consistent on-farm practice for years or even decades in all probability are not acceptable now. Moreover, the costs of a Court judgment can far outweigh any steps to become compliant with the law. The case in Tasmania last month (July 2016) where a Tasmanian farmer was ordered to pay $12 million in compensation to an employee who was injured during a quad bike accident adequately demonstrates that farmers can lose everything if they aren’t compliant with workplace health and safety legislation. The decision of the Tasmanian Supreme Court means the law is now increasingly clear on what farmers are expected to do when using quad bikes on farms. …

Dane Errol ASSA safety
ASSA managing director Dane Taylor (left) and principal Errol Taylor with the famous picture taken during the construction of the Empire State building in New York: it shows the contrast between workplace safety, past and present.

No second chances with safety in agriculture

Colin Jackson Farm-Safe

OF THE THREE most dangerous industries in Australia today, road transport tops the list, followed by agriculture and construction. But when statistics are dissected, agriculture is potentially the most dangerous business to be involved in. In the first three months of 2016, ten farm workers were killed in industrial accidents in Australia. This follows 22 fatalities nationally in 2015. According to the latest report of fatalities issued by Safe Work Australia in March 2016, in the top three, transport, postal and warehousing has had 18 deaths year-to-date, agriculture 10 and construction 4. The figure includes workers and bystanders, indicating that workplace health and safety in agriculture — from small farming operations to enormous properties covering large tracts of land — is all encompassing. More importantly, when dissected further to define the actual industry of the employer, transport, postal and warehousing rates equal with agriculture, forestry and fishing with eight worker deaths, while construction remains at four. This makes a statement: farm worker deaths relative to transportation issues are a significant factor. Workplace compliance is a minefield that must be negotiated with care. Being well-intentioned is not a defence for a business, and expectations of ‘staff using basic common-sense’ is not a …