Farmers have a higher risk of experiencing a serious or fatal workplace injury, have higher incidence of cardiovascular (heart) disease, some cancers and suicide. Some of the challenges for farm men and women are that they often live and work at the same place. This means that some of the work place risks are present every day, even when not working. People can become acclimatised to these risks and accept risk-taking behaviour as part of everyday farming work and life. This may make people complacent and stop actively looking for ways to reduce risk.
In the 10 years to 2016, 418 workers died while working on a farming property. This translates as almost one in six workers killed during this period in Australia was working on a farm at the time of the incident. Workers over the age of 55 years account for over half (55%) of all fatalities, with two-thirds of all deaths occurring in sheep, beef cattle and grain farming. Children under the age of 15 years are also a high-risk group, particularly when playing or helping out with farm jobs. The mix of home, work and recreation creates a complex environment for children to be a part of, and precautions need to be taken to minimise risk of injury.
The majority (71%) of farm deaths in the 10 years to 2016 involved a vehicle with tractors and quad bikes continuing to pose a high risk. See Safe Work Australia for more information.
Between 2006-2009, people working on farms were at least twice as likely to sustain an injury requiring hospitalisation when compared to the general Australian workforce. In NSW from January 2010 to June 2014, there were 6278 people admitted to hospital as a result of an injury on a farm. These most commonly occur through slips, trips and falls, livestock handling, machinery use and farm vehicles. Males have a higher proportion of injuries than females, particularly for injuries involving motorbikes. Females are more likely to sustain horse related injuries than males.
As a result of these injuries, agriculture (combined with fishing and forestry) has been identified as having the highest rate of serious injury compensation claims, with 3510 claims made in 2016, at a rate of 17.5 claims per 1000 members of the workforce.
Unfortunately, farms are amongst the most dangerous workplaces in Australia. This is compounded by our ageing farm workforce and farm workers being more likely to work alone than many other occupations. However, many farm related accidents can be prevented if all workers use proper safety procedures and safety equipment at all times. Organisations such Farmsafe can offer valuable advice on improving health and safety at your farm.
References used for this topic page
Safe Work Australia
Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
Farm safety [PDF 70kb]
Women’s and Children’s Health Network
ABC Health and Wellbeing
Research & reviews:
Parliament of Victoria
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Last updated: 5th February, 2018