Farm safety gains traction but improvements needed


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Man riding quad bike with helmet

Tractors and quad bikes remain the leading causes of injury on Australian farms but deaths from both vehicles have declined since 2017, according to new research.

New data funded by AgriFutures Australia shows fatal accidents caused by tractors fell from 13 to nine and deaths involving quads fell from 11 to six in the 12 months from 2017 to 2018.

AgriFutures Australia Managing Director, John Harvey said the number of farming-related deaths remains alarming.

“While some progress has been made in specific areas, the overall numbers are telling us that more still needs to be done,” said Mr Harvey.

AgriFutures Australia funds research into enhancing farm health and safety under its National Rural Issues Program and is the lead agency for the newly-formed RDC-funded Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA).

“We know the impact of accidents across Australia’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries is significant. Australia’s RDCs have a renewed focus on reshaping, refocusing and regrouping to address the issue.

“The RSHA will clarify research, development and extension priorities based on risk, provide stronger accountability for funders and funding recipients to deliver a return on investment, support practical extension, and underpin clear and visible leadership across the agricultural sector,” said Mr Harvey.

The report, Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia, was developed using data collected by AgHealth Australia’s National Farm Injury Coronial Database, based at the University of Sydney. RSHA chair, Patrick Murphy pointed out that while there is a huge social cost associated with fatal on-farm injuries, there is also a significant economic impact which is estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr Murphy says the cost includes factors such as loss of earnings, insurance payouts, work cover and police investigations, coronial costs, premature funeral costs, ambulance and hospital expenditure and loss of household contributions.

“While the figures are clearly shocking and the number of deaths in the sector needs to be urgently addressed, this research gives us a clear understanding of where the trouble spots are,” said Mr Murphy.

The research shows nearly 90% of farm-related accidents since 2001 involved males, with close to 50% of all reported accidents involving men over 50 years. Tractors, quads, motorbikes and horses accounted for almost half of all farm accidents.

“Equally concerning is that nearly 15% of deaths involved children under 15 years and farm vehicles including cars, motorbikes and utilities were the leading cause of these fatal accidents,” said Mr Murphy.

Mr Harvey said the RSHA are working together to connect individuals and committed organisations to improve safety across Australia’s agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries.

“I encourage people to visit the RSHA website and register to keep up to date with progress on this important issue.”

AgriFutures Australia supports activities focused on the physical and mental health and safety of farming families. Through this project, AgriFutures Australia is working with AgHealth Australia to track and monitor death and injury statistics in primary industries.

These statistics are reported biannually and are available at

About RSHA

The RSHA is jointly supported by AgriFutures Australia, Australian Eggs, Australian Pork Limited, Australian Wool Innovation, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Grains Research and Development Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia.

This work is in addition to projects delivered with other RDCs on research into new and existing prevention controls.

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