The New England region has been named as having the highest rates of farm related injuries in the state over the past two years in an alarming set of statistics released by Ambulance NSW for Farm Safety Week.
The region topped three out of four categories for on-farm injuries, as well as the overall tally of 116 “patients” needing ambulance assistance, with livestock and quad bike related accidents representing 103 of those call-outs, although the figures also included rodeo riders and motorists colliding with livestock.
In the 2015-16 financial year the agriculture industry made up 2.3 per cent of the workforce, yet accounted for 23 per cent of all workplace fatalities in Australia.
NSW Ambulance Superintendent Steve Flanagan, who is based in the New England, said incidents involving livestock and vehicles such as quad bikes and tractors were leading to significant injuries and even death.
“Farms can be dangerous places that have a dynamic level of risk. A few safety precautions will help minimise injuries and loss of livelihood and even life,” Supt Flanagan said.
Tragically 2017 has already been over-represented in terms of injuries and deaths on farms with 32 deaths, and 101 serious injuries nationally, while the Ambulance NSW figures broke farm related injuries down into four categories, Bulls, Cows, Quadbikes and Tractors, from 1 July 2015 until 30 June 2017.
The region recorded 27 bull and 26 cow related injuries for a combined total of 53, compared to a combined total of 36 for the next worse region of The Murumbidgee who recorded 11 bull and 25 cow related injuries.
“When working with livestock, farmers should ensure escape routes are clear and accessible, to avoid being trapped or crushed, also, avoid working alone when loading or unloading stock,” Supt Flanagan said.
“If you’re not adequately trained to be around the animals or have a level of experience that allows you to fully appreciate possible risks to work with them, you shouldn’t be.”
Nationally quad bikes have represented nine deaths already this year, and dominated the non-fatal tally with 23 injuries.
Those figures were mirrored in the state, particularly in the New England, where 50 injuries occurred that required an ambulance, six more than the Central and Far West Zone 2.
It was only in the tractor category that the region fared better, recording nine for the year while the Murumbidgee registered 21.
According to Farmsafe Australia, tractors, farm machinery and quad bikes were the leading cause of non-intentional farm injury death in 2016.
“These statistics demonstrate vehicles and machinery used on farms can pose significant exposure to risks, so due consideration needs to be given to safety measures,” Supt Flanagan said.
“Often, these vehicles are used in remote locations, and if a person becomes trapped it can be many hours before the alarm can be raised and help arrives, so ensure someone knows where you are.
“Children don’t have the experience or strength to operate these vehicles or fully appreciate the risks. We’ve also attended several instances of children being carried in adults’ laps and being catapulted during rollovers or in difficult terrain.”
Assistant Minister to the deputy Prime Minister Luke Hartsuyker, has encouraged “farmers and rural workers to keep their safety, health and well-being front and centre all year round” to reduce these statistics to a minimum.
“Agriculture is the biggest employer in our rural and regional communities, so farm safety should be a priority for everyone in the sector,” Minister Hartsuyker said.
“From vehicular and tractor safety, to working with chemicals and animals, to dealing with stress and mental health issues or the safety of older farmers and children—farming can be a high risk job.
“National Farm Safety Week is an important opportunity to start a dialogue—both at home and in the workplace—across the farming sector and in regional communities.”