Agriculture is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in due to the combination of hazards including heavy plant and machinery, chemicals, noise, dust, sun and heat exposure, working with animals, alone or in remote locations. According to Safework Australia, factors including long days, little sleep and multiple jobs contributed to 131 injuries and 58 fatalities on Australian farms in 2020. Weather events, family responsibilities, market fluctuations and natural disasters take their toll mentally, with suicide rates 50 per cent higher in rural communities compared to major cities.
This week is National Farm Safety Week which aims to raise awareness of farm safety issues across Australia and ensure that farmers, workers and other people on farm are not exposed to health and safety risks. This awareness is particularly important as farmers face significant penalties where they are found to have breached their safety duty. The industrial manslaughter offence implemented in Queensland extends corporate criminal responsibility to cases where a company's unwritten rules, policies, work practices or conduct tacitly authorise non-compliance or fail to create a culture of compliance consistent with its responsibilities and duties of care. The recent Magistrates Court decision, Guilfoyle v Wicks  QMC 11 reinforced that farmers owe a primary duty of care to ensure the electrical safety of their workers.
The Queensland Farmers' Federation remains committed to promoting and advancing safe workplaces in the agriculture sector. To assist farmers in upholding their safety duty, QFF is advocating for co-contribution grant opportunities for farmers, and other businesses, to undertake a range of safety improvements, such as installing crush protection devices on quad bikes, upgrading switchboards, fitting powerline markers, raising the height of electricity distribution lines, through to devices to boost mobile phone coverage for remote workers and training. The proposed rebate would raise awareness and overall investment in farm-safety measures on Queensland farms and assist the sector to prevent further injuries. QFF calls again on the Queensland government to take a common-sense approach to addressing risk and ensure the safety of our farmers at work.