On-farm deaths could be halved through simple solutions 23 Oct 2015

Almost half of all deaths on farms could be prevented, simply by implementing solutions we already know about, according to new research exploring what’s stopping primary producers from improving their safety practices.

Focus groups were run with farmers, growers, pastoralists and fishers, along with a desktop audit of peer reviewed research. Funded by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership, the study will guide efforts over coming years to improve the uptake of Work Health and Safety (WHS) initiatives.

Study author, Richard Franklin of James Cook University, says the rates of death and injury on farms and fishing vessels have improved, but are still unacceptable.

“In 2013, the 48 deaths in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries represented a quarter of all workplace fatalities. It was equal to 15.11 fatalities per 100,000 workers, which was nine times the national rate of 1.64,” Associate Professor Franklin said.

“We found a perfect example of how lives could be saved quite easily, in figures relating to deaths involving farm utes. From 2001 to 2014, there were 45 fatalities – and half of these people died because they weren’t wearing seatbelts or were being carried in the tray.

“When it comes to health, a willingness to make changes is at least partly dependent on people’s perceptions of how likely something is to happen to them, and how serious they think the consequences could be. Farmers are also highly practical, and need evidence of how changing practices will improve their safety, production or income.”

The major barriers were universal and consistent across industries, and included attitudes, perceived cost, time and inconvenience to implement changes. 

However, the research shows the creation of a culture of safety in the primary industries is possible, with strong leadership and positive attitudes from key people.

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

To download a copy of the report Exploring the Barriers and Facilitators to Adoption of Improved Work Practices for Safety in the Primary Industries, or for more information about the partnership, visit