Quad bikes and side-by-sides under the spotlight in wrap up of 2020 farm safety stats


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Farm Safety - RSHA Executive Officer, Andrew Barrett

A familiar tale sees quad bikes and tractors continue as the leading cause of death and injury on Australian farms, according to annual statistics released by AgriFutures Australia. Despite the increased safety attention on quad bikes last year, the number of deaths continues to rise.

Figures collated by AgHealth Australia’s National Farm Injury Coronial Database revealed 58 on-farm deaths were reported in 2020*, the same number of cases reported in 2019. Quad bikes and tractors again reported as the leading causes of injury. AgriFutures Australia funds research to enhance farm health and safety as part of its National Rural Issues Program, working alongside the Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA).

The 2020 report Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia highlights the total on-farm deaths, causes of injury, fatalities by age and gender, as well as the estimated economic impact of fatal injuries.

Using data collated by AgHealth Australia’s National Farm Injury Coronial Database based at the University of Sydney, the report aims to provide comprehensive evidence to build preventative approaches for the safety and wellbeing of people in Australian agriculture.

AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager, Rural Futures, Jennifer Medway says that while the statistics show progress is being made in some areas, its alarming to see the increase in deaths from quad bikes and side by sides.

“Side by sides have long been considered a safer option to quads, but the numbers don’t back that up. They are only now increasing in popularity and are already making a sizable contribution to the death toll,” said Ms Medway.

“In fact, well over a third of on-farm deaths in 2020 are directly attributable to quad bikes and side by sides alone. If you add tractors into the mix, these three vehicles shockingly account for over half of all on-farm deaths”.

This is a challenge not lost on the rural Research Development Corporations (RDC) which fund research through the RSHA to review the data and use an evidence-based approach to improve safety across our agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries.

RSHA Executive Officer, Andrew Barrett said the figures are another sobering reminder that the cost of human life incurred in the production of our food and fibre is still too high.

“As a sector so proud of innovation and progress, we must be equally concerned and focused on why so little has changed in our health and safety record over time,” said Mr Barrett.

“The commitment to change has already begun with leadership from the Minister, government, National Farmers’ Federation, RDCs, and some of our peak bodies.”

“Other non-agricultural industries have accepted that ‘inherently dangerous’ is not a condition of work but a call to action. Actions that target known and persistent risks, using risk controls proven to reduce the potential for death and serious injury need to be enforced if we are going to see any noticeable change in these statistics.”

Fast facts:

  • Research has shown a year-on-year increase in quad bike deaths from 11 to 14
  • As the popularity of side-by-side vehicles increase, so has the deaths, rising from 5 to 7, making it one of the top three agents of death within the agricultural sector
  • 70% of all reported injuries were via quads, tractors, horses or cattle, with 60% of injuries occurring in Queensland
  • 60-74 year old males were the most prevalent age group of fatality (20).
  • The 2020 Non-intentional Farm Related Incidents in Australia Annual Statistics is available via the AgriFutures Australia website here.

Learn more about the Rural Safety and Health Alliance via: www.rsha.com.au

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 Corporate, Grains Research and Development Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia.

*Fatal cases for the reporting period could increase due to a lag in data collection method.

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