Tel: 1300 307 877
24 hour serious incident and fatality reporting line
Freecall: 1800 678 198
Mason Bird Building
303 Sevenoaks St
Cannington WA 6107
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Serious injury and fatality rates in agricultural workplaces are amongst the highest in Western Australia and WorkSafe is working with the community to bring these numbers down. This new strategy will provide focus and progress the provision of resources and better accessibility to occupational health and safety information.
WorkSafe’s mission is to inspire employers and workers to ensure workplaces are safe through partnership, education and enforcement.
WorkSafe’s collaborative approach with industry, employers and the workforce is focused on:
Our approach to ensuring compliance by employers and businesses is tailored to workplace circumstances and presenting risk. Our model for compliance extends from education, capacity building and preventative measures through to enforcement.
Farmers are often under the impression that OSH laws do not apply to them. This is often based on a number of misconceptions, such as:
In Western Australia, occupational safety and health laws apply to all workplaces, including agricultural properties. Under these laws, self-employed people, employers and employees, or a person or people in control of a workplace, have responsibilities to make the workplace safe. All employers, including self-employed people, have a legal responsibility called a ‘duty of care’ to provide a safe working environment. All employed workers - full time, part time, casual or contract - have the right to a safe and healthy working environment and to be protected from any hazard that may exist at the workplace.
In the context of occupational safety and health, the term ‘agriculture’ generally includes all activities in the growing and cultivation of horticultural and other crops (excluding forestry), and the controlled breeding, raising or farming of animals. The distinction between agriculture and forestry is not always clear and well defined, however in this document; the term agriculture refers to all agricultural undertakings, irrespective of size, which are operated for gain or reward.
Each farm has its own set of occupational safety and health issues to address, and these issues may change or be static. Some risks are specific to one particular area of agriculture, or even to a particular workplace. Other risks are across a wide range of agricultural tasks. Machinery, animals and mobile plant are consistently causes of work-related injuries. Hazardous substances are also a constant and significant source of injuries in agriculture. The variability in working conditions; including weather, isolation, environment, economics, work history, age, experience, fitness and fatigue, is a feature shared by most agricultural tasks.
Agricultural work often requires repetitive, rapid movements, heavy lifting, and awkward positions that lead to body stressing. Agricultural work is often seasonal, with intensive labour needed for short periods. Animals and plants also expose agricultural workers to numerous hazards, such as zoonotic (animal borne) diseases and plant allergies.
Fatalities are highly represented in vehicle use; including light vehicles, quad bikes, tractors and aircraft. The total number of work-related fatalities of persons employed in the agricultural industries in Australia over the eight year period from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2011 was 356. This represents 17% of all fatal accidents within all industries in Australia (Work Related Injuries and Fatalities on Australian Farms – Safe Work Australia March 2013).
Conditions in agriculture which increase the risk of occupational injuries and fatalities can include some of the following:
Farms in Western Australia can vary from the large station properties that cover thousands of hectares to small farms that focus on the production of specialist and gourmet products. Within each farming venture occupational safety and health issues can change hourly, daily, seasonally and annually in dynamics characterized by continuous change, activity, or progress.
On many farms the work is done by the farmer and his/her family, with family members often covering more than one generation. Some farms are made up of large multi-national companies. There are also share farms consisting of families and groups working together to best use assets and infrastructure.
The agricultural workforce in Western Australia has been growing more diverse, and this diversity has become more pronounced over the past several decades. This increasing diversity of agricultural workers is present across the wide range of agricultural pursuits, and reflects the changing dynamics of the industries that make up the Western Australian agricultural sector. Many farms employ seasonal workers, especially for station work, harvesting of fruit and vegetables, and agritourism. These seasonal workers are in many cases from overseas, and often have English as a second language. Many of them have limited or no hands-on agricultural experience. There are of course also farms with permanent staff and occasional seasonal workers.
The good news is that there are many departments and agencies formed across government to identify and assist in reducing the numbers of serious injuries and loss of life. From national, to state, and local level these agencies take a long-range view to the collection and analysis of data; which will in turn be translated into meaningful action, legislation, education, policy and enforcement.
There is strong commitment from stakeholders across the country which includes farming organisations, machinery dealers, service organisations, educational institutions, industry bodies and occupational safety and health authorities. These stakeholders support government initiatives and support any changes which can be implemented, at any level to convert data to strategies, and strategies to actions.
The National Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 provides a national focus for all Australian governments and the peak bodies to improve work health safety outcomes by working cooperatively and collaboratively.
Targets to be achieved by 2022 include:
The publication Work-Related Injuries and Fatalities on Australian Farms February 2013 was prepared by Safe Work Australia. This report draws together a profile of Australian farmers and documents important trends in fatalities and injuries that occur on Australian farms. At the end of this report are potential avenues for improving the work safety and health of Australian farmers and farm workers in the context of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012–2022.
WorkSafe understands the deep personal connections that many communities have with the land, and that over many generations Western Australian agricultural families have held on through the tough times of economic uncertainty, drought, flood, climate change and isolation from the markets to which they provide.
WorkSafe also witnesses the worst of times, when there has been serious injury or loss of life during these people’s daily tasks. It is these incidents that remind us all that changes can and should be made to assist in making WA workplaces safer into the future.
WorkSafe has worked with the Agricultural Safety Industry Group to develop effective working relationships with the farming communities of WA. It has been identified that there is a willingness from agricultural families to engage in safer practices; however there are some gaps between what they do and what they are required to do. WorkSafe is committed to assisting close these gaps through the provision of education, information and systems.
WorkSafe has identified a number of strategies which will be developed and implemented throughout the Agricultural Action Plan 2014-2016.
These strategies are based on the following processes:
|Liaison with stakeholders||Development of a picture of what needs to be done|
|Building partnerships with stakeholders||What resources can WorkSafe share to achieve this goal?|
|Stakeholders endorsing and promoting strategies||Actively assisting in promotion, cost sharing, and support|
|Education based on regulation||Development of a clearer understanding of what compliance with OSH legislation looks like|
|Learning, leading to compliance||WorkSafe provides information on how the business/individual can comply with legislation|
|Industry demanding compliance||Raising community expectation for safer workplaces|
|Education, followed by enforcement||When information has been provided businesses need to show that they are complying|
WorkSafe has identified a number of areas where the risks of serious injury are high. The following methods will be applied to reduce those risks:
Workers over 60 years of age
Rollover/Run over vehicle incidents
Broad acre farming
Access to OHS information for farmers
WorkSafe encourages all farmers, farming families, agriculturalists and agricultural workers, students and other stakeholders to become involved on a personal level to assist in the reduction of serious and fatal incidents in WA farming pursuits.
WorkSafe recognises that collaboration, information and education go a long way to assisting the spread of better and safer work practices. As a public service agency, WorkSafe endeavours to be inclusive and informative; and provides a wealth of information to assist all persons to have, and to provide, safer workplaces in accordance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations.
WorkSafe requests the support, encouragement and engagement of all members of the Western Australian agricultural and farming workforce. This will lead to planned action by employers, employees, designers, manufacturers, contractors and others to:
ENDORSE personal commitment to participate in safe work systems
ENGAGE share, inform, teach and educate safe work practices
ENCOURAGE actively assist in continuous safety improvements and practices
WorkSafe’s website provides a range of information available to you to assist in creating a safer workplace.
If you have a question which can’t be answered by information on our website then staff at our Customer Help Centre may be able to assist on 1300 307 877.
This action plan has been developed by WorkSafe in partnership with the following stakeholders:
These organisations, along with WorkSafe, constitute a united front to address the safety of people working in the agricultural industry of Western Australia.
WorkSafe acknowledges the commitment shown by these stakeholder organisations in contributing to the development and implementation of this action plan.