Kids face safety risk on farms

FARM deaths have fallen below 50 for the first time in more than a decade. The latest report from Farmsafe Australia showed there were 46 on-farm fatalities during 2021 compared to 58 deaths in the previous two years. A further 128 people were injured in farm related incidents.

Tractors and quad bikes continue to be the leading cause of fatalities. Since 2001, 1632 people have died on Australian farms, with tractors involved in 261 fatalities and quad bike incidents killing another 204. Of the deaths recorded on farms last year, 87 per cent were men and almost 60 percent were aged over 45 years of age.

Farmsafe Australia executive officer Blake Hillier said there had been some great strides made towards lowering both the on farm fatalities and the injuries each year. “We are very capable of lowering these numbers further, year after year,” Mr Hillier said. “Ultimately every business and organisation along the agricultural supply chain has a significant stake in the safety and wellbeing of Australian farmers.”

Tasmanian farmer and Farmsafe Australia chair Felicity Richards said it was important to remember the human behind each statistic. “The farmer who was just out doing their job,” Ms Richards said, “The one who didn’t think it could happen to them. “Each one of them was somebody’s child, somebody’s partner, somebody’s family.”

One of the biggest issues in farm safety is that since 2001 there has been no significant decrease in the average annual child fatality statistics on farms, with around 15 per cent of deaths being children under the age of 15. “Farming is the only industry in which a child can walk onto a worksite with no questions asked,” the report noted. “But the reality is males aged 10-14 are overrepresented in the statistics of on farm fatalities involving farm vehicles and machinery.

“Farms are family homes and it is impractical, unfeasible and ultimately detrimental to try to keep kids away from risk. “We need to work with both parents and children to find the right educational tools and messaging to begin to see a shift in safety practices involving children on farm.”

As a mother of three young children, Ms Richards said she wants them to see agriculture for all the skills and opportunities that it presents. “We also want them to grow up safely on our farm with the knowledge that our industry values their work and their lives,” she said. “If I look at every employee, every contractor, every visitor to our farm as being someone else’s child or family and just as precious as my own children then their safety should and will be my highest priority.”

The Farmsafe report noted that the introduction of rollover protection for quad bikes had contributed to improved safety as had the wearing of helmets. The organisation is currently reviewing the effectiveness of state-run incentive programs to assist farmers with the cost of investing in safety upgrades for on farm vehicles such as quad bikes.

The report will help Farmsafe determine whether further advocacy is required to ensure more funding is directed into programs such as these in other states. Farmsafe Australia is working on several resources to support safety on farms including a new “cookbook” ‘Recipes for Averting Disaster’ which has been created using stories, tips and solutions from farmers to avert disaster and stay safe and health on their farms.