September 19, 2023

Western Australia safety authority launches inquiry into 12th farming death

Western Australia’s WorkSafe Commission Darren Kavanagh will investigate the state’s agricultural sector after the 12th work-related fatality in the industry in just 12 months.

In a statementThe WA Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety said a 24-year-old man died on June 21 between Varley Creek and Lake King in the Deep South region.

The 24-year-old was moving a bogged down vehicle with a tractor when the towing equipment he was using broke down – he was struck in the head causing fatal injuries.

“The agriculture industry statistics are not acceptable, and it is deeply concerning that the death toll in the industry continues to rise,” Kavanagh said.

“Any work-related death is a tragedy, and I offer my sincere condolences to the family of the worker involved in yesterday’s incident.”

Kavanagh added that culture within the agriculture industry “seems to allow fatalities to occur at significantly higher rates than in any other industry, with agricultural production appearing to come before the safety of families and workers.”

“As a regulator, I have informed the Minister of my intention to use my powers under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2020 to carry out an investigation into the industry, starting with examine the tragic deaths of agricultural workers and their families over the past five years. .”

Deaths in the past year

Other agriculture-related deaths reported in Western Australia included one on February 8, where a 89 year old man in the Berkshire Valley, 200 miles north of Perth, died after unloading hay from a tractor.

On December 22, 2021, a 72 year old farmer in Maya in the Mid-West of WA, about 240 kilometers NNE of Perth, died after starting an old tractor where he ended up hitting it.

“I am particularly concerned about farmers over the age of 60, as six of the nine farm workers who have died in the past year were in this age group,” Kavanagh said in a statement. statement.

Tractors and quads have been the main cause of death since 2001, according to AgHealth Australia.

Nationally, a total of 46 on-farm deaths have been reported (pdf) during the period from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021, according to AgHealth Australia. For 2020, 58 agricultural deaths were recorded.

Of the 1,632 deaths recorded from 2001 to December 31, 2021, just over half (50.5% or 1,418 cases) were people over the age of 50; 14.4% or 235 cases were children under 15; and 88.2% or 1,440 cases were male.

Changes to make the farming industry safer

Kavanagh called on industry leaders to reduce fatalities in the agriculture industry.

“Agriculture is frequently represented in the top three industries for workplace fatalities, and there is a growing need to place a higher priority on safety and health,” Kavanagh said. said.

WA Farmers managing director Trevor Whittington added that recent changes to WA’s industry manslaughter laws “have made it clear that unless the farming industry adopts much better safety protocols and reduce incidents, moving towards zero fatalities, she would start to pursue the industry much more rigorously,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

Under Section 30A of the Health and Safety at Work (WA) Act 2020 (pdf), the maximum penalty for committing industrial homicide is 20 years imprisonment, including a fine of $5 million for an individual and a fine of $10 million for a company.


Henry Jom is an Australia-based journalist who covers local news in Australia. Contact him at [email protected].