Farm deaths in Victoria climb to a 10-year high

Dec 06 2017

 Victoria is poised to record its worst year for farm deaths in more than a decade.

 
Twelve people have died in work-related incidents on Victorian farms so far this year — three more than the nine deaths recorded for the whole of last year and the worst since before 2007.
 
The alarming figures have renewed calls from authorities, families of victims and farm groups for farmers to “sit up” and “take notice” and for there to be more action on farm death prevention.
 
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said the number of people dying on the state’s farms was at an unacceptable level.
 
National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson described the figures as “tragic”.
 
“We’re not doing enough when it comes to protecting our farmers, farming families, including children, and farm workers,” Ms Simson said.
 
Mr Jochinke said farm deaths were an “absolutely huge” issue. “The number of farm deaths is unacceptable, and it’s up to us, the whole industry, to take responsibility,” he said.
 
According to WorkSafe Victoria, 56 people died working on farms between 2007 and last year. Just one person died in 2007 and one in 2008.
 
WorkSafe hazardous industries and industry practice head Michael Coffey said “the fact that 12 people have lost their lives on farms so far this year should be enough for all farmers to sit up, take notice and reassess how they’re carrying out their activities”.
 
Dylan Walter said his world had been “tipped on its head” since the death of his father, Gus, who it is believed died while doing “a simple little job” of rounding up his sheep on his quad bike at Hesket in central Victoria in September.
 
Mr Walter’s neighbour, Martin Nolan, said it was believed Mr Walter was going about a simple task at the time of the accident, which served as a reminder to farmers of how easily things could go wrong.
 
“He put a mob of sheep in the driveway to eat the grass, which he did all the time,” Mr Nolan said. The first farm death of this year happened in January, when Nora Thiele was struck by a truck as she drove a tractor and trailer loaded with fruit across a road at Narrung in the Mallee.
 
In February, Matthew Morrissey died when a quad bike towing a trailer rolled at Reedy Flat in East Gippsland.
 
Four deaths were recorded in March. Richard Sergent was struck by a tractor that he jump-started in a machinery shed at Meredith, while Trevor Hayward was run over by a tractor while picking grapes at Wandin East.
 
Kraithep Kraithong fell from a trailer being pulled by a tractor at Myrrhee, and Kevin McDowall died when the cabin of his prime mover was crushed near Allansford.
 
In June, Graeme Chisholm died after the spreader truck he was using rolled on steep terrain at Limestone, near Yea, while John Saliba died when he fell from a stationary truck at a chicken farm at Freshwater Creek, near Geelong. John Hewlett died in August after he was crushed against a fence by a bull at Bamawm.
 
In October, Lindsay Hine died after riding a motorbike into a ditch at Yarck.
 
The most recent Victorian farm fatality was on November 19, when Tony Sargeant died after his utility vehicle tipped over at Bonnie Doon.
 
Ms Simson said the industry had “a collective responsibility to reduce the chance of death or serious injury on our farms”. “The figures demonstrate the need for Government to support bodies such as FarmSafe, who provide critical resources and a vital role in co-ordinating farm safety messages,” Ms Simson said. “Currently, the future of FarmSafe is uncertain, due to a lack of funding. Quad bike safety is of particular concern.”
 
Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash did not respond to questions about FarmSafe before deadline.
 
While WorkSafe looks only at workplaces, the Australian Centre for Agricultural Heath and Safety reported 17 people have been killed on Victorian farms up to November 20, and 57 across Australia.
 
Source: Weekly Times

Last changed: Dec 06 2017 at 7:11 PM

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