Tractors and quad bikes remain two of the leading causes of injury on Australian farms but deaths from both vehicles have declined significantly in 2018, according to new research.
The AgriFutures Australia-funded report shows fatal accidents caused by tractors fell from 13 to nine and deaths involving quads fell from 11 to six, when comparing 2017 to 2018.
Much of the quad death reduction is due to awareness that stemmed from the continuing hostile debate that is raging between regulators of new build standards and ATV manufacturers.
But there is a dire underlying irony resulting from the focus on ATV deaths.
Farm workers switched from ATV’s to two-wheel trail bikes and even Utilities with alarming consequences.
Deaths from riding two-wheel trail bikes more than doubled from 2 in 2017 to 5 in 2018.
And workers thinking a Ute would be safer ran up a catastrophic stat that saw deaths increase from just 1 in 2017 to a staggering 7 fatalities in 2018.
And of course, these figures don’t take into account the number of people that survived their accidents, and are not part of the death stats, but as a consequence of their injuries now live in varying degrees of incapacitation.
AgriFutures Australia is behind the report and is part of a new partnership to improve the rural industry’s health and safety. Managing Director, John Harvey says 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,” Mr Harvey said.
AgriFutures funds research into enhancing farm health and safety under its National Rural Issues Program and is 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,” Mr Harvey said.
“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.”
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,” Mr Murphy said.
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,” Mr Murphy said.
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,” he said. You can register at: https://www.rsha.com.au/