Counting the real costs of workplace injury in agriculture 10 Mar 2015

An analysis of injuries in the farm sector shows an incredible 193,632 working weeks were lost across the cotton, grain, mixed farming, sugar, marine and aquaculture industries over a four year period.

Across all of agriculture and fisheries, injury claims and associated costs were worth more than $300 million over the same period.

The research was commissioned by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) and conducted by Tony Lower at the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety. Data was drawn from coronial information, workers compensation data and self-reported/ near-miss incidents from 2008-09 to 2011-12.

“On average, there were almost 50,000 weeks of work lost each year across the included industries. This means about 930 people were off work due to injury every week,” Mr Lower said.

“While there have been significant improvements in workplace health and safety (WHS) in primary production over the past 20 years, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“It’s important to remember that workers compensation data significantly under-estimates the burden of injuries – in fact probably only 50-60 per cent of the true cost – due to people who don’t report incidents or make a claim. On top of that, it doesn’t capture any injuries to non-workers like children or visitors to a farm or boat.

“The analysis shows the five leading types of injuries consistently accounted for around 75 per cent of all claims. This illustrates the importance of developing and targeting cost-effective approaches to assist farmers and fishers in addressing these core issues.”

As always, quad bikes and vehicles featured consistently as a danger across land-based industries.

“Being able to go to work and come home to family and friends in a safe and injury free capacity is an ideal that everyone supports,” Mr Lower said.

“This research pinpoints the major risks in each of the sectors, which will help businesses in preparing their own WHS action plans and more generally ensure that pro-active strategies are put in place to manage and control those risks. This will lead to a genuinely safer workplace.”

PIHSP is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the meat processing, cotton, grains, fishing and livestock industries as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.

For more information or a copy of the report 'Mapping work health and safety risks in the primary industries' visit

Costs associated with injury claims, 2008-09 to 2011-12:
  • Aquaculture - $14,065,000

  • Cotton - $5,005,000

  • Grains - $7,357,000

  • Grain-sheep and grain-beef - $39,476,000

  • Marine - $5,923,000

  • Sugar - $3,195,000

The key risks of death and injury in each sector:
  • Aquaculture – drowning, diving, electricity (pumps/ aerators), quads

  • Cotton - motor vehicles (including utes, cars, quads, trucks), electricity

  • Grain - motor vehicles (including utes, cars, quads, trucks), grain augers/PTOs, electricity

  • Marine - drowning, diving

  • Sugar - tractors (rollover/ run-over/ collision), motor vehicles (including utes, quads, haul out trucks)