This week is National Farm Safety Week which aims to raise awareness of farm safety issues across Australia. It’s a particularly relevant topic as agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in due to the combination of hazards, including 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 2014 and 2018, there were 188 worker fatalities in the Agriculture industry, which is 20 per cent of all worker fatalities over the period. With 69 per cent of fatalities in the sector involving a vehicle including tractors (23 per cent) and quad bikes (15 per cent).
While it is important to acknowledge the hazards the sector presents, it is also important to recognise that improvements have been and continue to be made. From the federal government mandating the installation of operator protection devices on quad bikes to an industry initiative to remove unwanted hazardous chemicals from farm. Additionally, one of the most avoidable and highest safety risks in the Queensland agriculture sector is accidental contact with powerlines. Ergon and Energex have created a free mapping application to help farmers formulate a safety plan to ensure work is performed safely near powerlines whilst Rotamarkers increase the visibility of powerlines during aerial applications, and planting and harvesting operations have been made easier to install and more affordable.
Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) CEO Dr Georgina Davis has recently accepted a position on the Queensland Workplace Health and Safety Board, and QFF remains committed to promoting and advancing safe workplaces to turn the statistics around. We believe there are significant benefits to implementing co-funding opportunities for farmers and other businesses to undertake a range of safety improvements, such as upgrading switchboards, installing powerline markers, raising the height of distribution lines, devices to boost mobile phone coverage for remote workers and training. We note a similar scheme is already operating successfully in New South Wales and call on the Queensland Government to take a similar common-sense approach to addressing risk and ensuring the safety of our farmers at work.