Projects – farm hazards
Farming remains one of the most hazardous occupations in Australia, with recent data indicating approximately 50-60 deaths occurring on farms annually.
Agriculture operates within a diverse work environment. Unique due to factors such as geography, diverse machinery and equipment use, animal handling, and changeable climatic conditions, all of which can vary on a day to day basis.
Asthma on farms
Asthma is a condition of inflammation and spasm of the airways, which can be triggered by a range of factors.
Asthma may be an immediate response to grain dust inhalation, or may be delayed for several hours, and can reoccur for several successive nights following exposure.
Asthma can be life threatening if left untreated. Symptoms of asthma include – wheezing, laboured breathing and coughing.
Resources available –
- Asthma Management on Farm – factsheet
- Asthma on Farms: Responsibilities of Employers
- Asthma brochure
- Asthma poster
Noise injury prevention
Noise injury and hearing loss is a significant problem in the Australian farming community. Hearing loss sustained from noise injury, can have disabling personal and social consequences for the affected person and their family. Research has shown that around two-thirds of farmers have a measurable hearing loss, or have on average, hearing levels 10 to 15 years worse than that of the rest of the population.
Noise injury in farmers occurs from prolonged exposure to on-farm noise hazards such as tractors, chainsaws, firearms. Damage can be caused by prolonged and cumulative effects of noise over 85 dB over many years; or by instant trauma associated with peak noise levels over 140 dB . Exposure to excessive noise levels without protection, represent an unacceptable risk to the hearing health of farming families.
The Noise Injury Prevention Strategy for the Australian Farming Community was developed through AgHealth Australia on behalf of Farmsafe Australia, as a framework to address these issues, based on the research findings. A number of research reports, articles have been produced by ACAHS, contributing to action on this issue (see NFIDC reports and publications).
Summary information for farmers based on this research is provided in:
The Better Hearing for Farm Families Project –
AgHealth Australia undertook this community-based Project in three NSW communities, using the framework provided by the Noise Injury Prevention Strategy. The project was funded through the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, and aimed to:
• Improve awareness of noise injury and hearing health strategies
• Improve access to services offering:
– advice on noise injury prevention and hearing health
– audiometric screening / testing
– services and devices for the hearing impaired
• Improve networking of services within each community
A report on this Project will be available shortly, to assist other communities implement similar noise injury prevention projects in their area.
Hearing screening and services – For information on local hearing services, contact local Community Health Centre or look under “hearing services” in the the Yellow Pages*
A free and nationally available telephone hearing screening service is available for farmers and others through Telscreen, an Australian Hearing initiative. Phone 1800 826 500 (Freecall).
For those who are hearing impaired, the National Relay Service provides a free telephone relay service for people who are having difficulty hearing on the phone. Go to www.relayservice.com.au for details.
For further information please contact:
Phone: 02 6882 1486
Falls injury prevention
The Australian Farming Community is an ageing workforce, and farmers over the age of 50 years are at greater risk of falls injury.
North West Farmsafe in NSW and AgHealth Australia has completed the Preventing Falls in Older Farmers project which was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The project aim was to work with older farmers to reduce the incidence of falls injuries on farm, with a view to developing guidelines and information resources for other farming communities across Australia.
A series of workshops were held at Bingara, Pilliga, Nundle, Guyra, Bonalbo and Goulburn. The participating older farmers were able to discuss both the issues of sustaining falls on farm and also to consider possible resources to identify an individuals level of risk in sustaining a fall. Options as to what farmers should do to actively address their falls risk were also identified.
For further information please contact:
Phone: 02 6882 1486
Pesticides and human health
Data which describes the full, or even partial, extent of human health effects from exposure to pesticides is difficult to source data due to potential long latency periods for chronic illness, the difficulty in diagnosis, the non-specific nature of pesticide health effects and the lack of effective monitoring systems.
Pesticides and Adverse Health Outcomes in Australia – chartbook is available in Research Reports section under Reports and Publications Header.
Tractor and machinery
Injury and death associated with machinery operation on Australian Farms has been recognised as a key issue for farm safety for many years.
In 1999 the National Farm Machinery Safety Reference Group was established and developed the first national strategy to actively seek practical resolutions to reduce the prevalence of deaths involving farm machinery.
In the time since, project work and resource development has continued. Please see listing of relevant documents below.
Machine Injuries on Australian Farms – Chartbook
Work Health and Safety resources including induction, training and hazard checklists are available within the Resources for Farmers section. CLICK HERE
Since 2001 over 270 Australians have died in quad related incidents.*
*See latest reports in the Research Reports section.
Quads are now the leading cause of non-intentional injury death on Australian farms (outranking tractors). Deaths are evenly distributed between rollovers, where asphyxiation/ crush injury are common and non-rollovers, where the victim is flung onto a hard surface as a result of a quad bike crash. Almost 9 out of every 10 rollover deaths occur on a farm.
Farmers are urged to think carefully about their use of quads taking into account the safety risks. In a majority of cases, quads are not fit for purpose for the tasks required by farmers and more suitable vehicles should be used.
Farmers who are employers or in control of the farm workplace have responsibility under work health and safety law to provide safe systems of work for workers and visitors to the workplace, including the operation of quads.
The ongoing work of the Centre for quad safety will seek to promote the use of more suitable vehicles. If quad bikes are still to be used as the vehicle of choice, they should be fitted with a suitably tested crush protection device.
The full range of control measures can be found in the Safety Guide; Safety of Quads and Side by Side Vehicles on Australian Farms
The Centre will continue negotiations with relevant partners in relation to guidelines, risk assessments and regulatory intervention.
- Media Release: Farm injury deaths continue to impact rural communities, 10 April 2017, ACAHS, Dubbo.
- Media Release: NSW Raises the Bar on Farm Safety, 12 June 2016, ACAHS, Moree.
- Media Release: Victoria Leads the Way to Improve Quad Safety, 17 February 2016, ACAHS, Moree.
- Media Release: Farm Injury Deaths Headed in Wrong Direction, 12 January 2016, ACAHS, Moree.
- ABC Radio: The trouble with the quad bike on Sunday Extra: Background Briefing, 5 April, 2015. ABC Broadcasting.
Reports and Guidelines
- Policy Paper: Preventing death and serious injury caused by quad rollovers on Australian farms – Policy Paper, February 2016, ACAHS, Moree.
- Full Report: Quad Related deaths and Injuries in Australia 2015 – Media Monitors Report, January 2016, ACAHS, Moree.
- Grzebieta, R et al. Final Summary Project Report: Test Results, Conclusions and Reccommendations. Quad Bike Performance Project TARS Research Report No 4, submitted to the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales, UNSW, Sydney, Australia
- Grzebieta, R et al. The Australian Terrain Vehicle Assessment Program (ATVAP). Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research, University of New South Wales, Australia. May 2015. Paper No 24ESV-000144
- Full Report: Quad related deaths and injuries in Australia 2014 – Media Monitors Report, January 2015, ACAHS, Moree.
Other resources available:
The following link is a list of Registered Training Organisations that can provide accredited quad bike training in compliance with AHCHMOM212A. Participants who are assessed successfully will achieve the nationally accredited unit of competency.
- ABC 7:30 Report: Nine fatal quad bike accidents force rethink on safety regulations, 26 August 2014.
- Media Release: Quad bike deaths and injuries persist, 29 Jan 2014, ACAHS, Moree
- Media Release: Quad bikes a major source of trauma in Victoria, 2013, ACAHS, Moree.
- Media Release: Quad bike fatalities costly – but manufacturers fail to act, ACAHS, Moree.
- Hon Bill Shorten Press Release: Government works with farming organisations and community groups to establish “QuadWatch”.
- ABC Country Hour Interview: Associate Professor Tony Lower
- National Safety Magazine – Crush Protection: Raising the Bar. (This article was first published in May 2012 issue of the National Safey Magazine – a magazine of the National Safety Council of Australia)
- Media Release: Australian Quad Bike Deaths and Injuries in 2011
- ABC 7.30 Report Video – How Safe are quad bikes (Video 5.5MB) Link to ABC website for viewing
Reports and Guidelines
- Safety Information Sheet: Farm Vehicles Quads and Motorbike Safety Information SheetOctober 2014 ACAHS, Moree.
- Presentation: Royal Melbourne Farm Kids and Injury Forum – Farms, kids and quad bikes a fatal mix, 15 August 2014, Melbourne.
- Presentation: Royal Melbourne Farm Kids and Injury Forum – Australian Data 2001 – 2010, 15 August, 2014, Melbourne.
- Full Report: Quad bike related deaths and injuires in Australia 2013 – Media Monitors Report, Jan 2014, ACAHS, Moree
- Quad Bike Related Deaths and Injuries: Australia 2012, Media Monitors Report, ACAHS, Moree.
- Map of Quad Bike Deaths in Australia during 2012, ACAHS, Moree
- Adoption of Quad Bike Crush Protection Devices: A report prepared for Worksafe Victoria.
- Wordley, S. Quad bike crush protection devices (CPDs): Updates to ISCRR Snapshot Review C-1-12-022, 2012 Monash University, Melbourne
- RDAA & RDAV Joint Media Release 2012: Long overdue action on quad bikes applauded
- Mount Isa Statement on Quad Bike Safety – 2012 (‘Are you remotely interested…’ and Farmsafe Conference 2012)
- Map of Australian Quad Bike Deaths Jan-May 2012
- Quad Bike Related Deaths and Injuries: Australia 2011, Media Monitors Report
- Monash University 2011- Snapshot review on quad bike safety devices
- Factsheet – Farm vehicles, 2 and 4 wheeled motorbikes
- Media Reports on quad bikes related deaths and injuries in Australia during 2010
- Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities – Quad bike campaign
People working in the farm workshop are exposed to risk of injury and illness associated with a range of hazards. Up to 20 percent of farm injuries presenting to hospital emergency departments are caused by farm maintenance work. More than 30 percent of these are eye injuries and a further 30 percent are hand injuries.
Zoonoses are animal diseases that can be passed onto humans. Zoonoses such as Q Fever, cryptosporidiosis and leptospirosis, affect thousands of people each year in Australia.
Those at high risk include abattoir workers, veterinarians, shearers and farmers who have regular and close contact with animals. Symptoms can be mild gastro-intestinal or flu-like illnesses – or can progress to serious illnesses with long term health affects.
For general health and safety information on the more common zoonotic diseases affecting farmers, click on the factsheet below. If you have concerns about your own health or more specific inquiries, seek the advice of a Rural General Practitioner, or the Public Health Unit of a Rural Area Health Service.