Farm safety summit sparks action

Zach RephCountryman
Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston and Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan led the forum in Perth yesterday, aiming to bolster WA agriculture's safety.
Camera IconIndustrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston and Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan led the forum in Perth yesterday, aiming to bolster WA agriculture's safety.

The State Government and WA's peak agriculture bodies are ramping up efforts to drastically reduce on-farm deaths in the wake of an urgent farm safety summit.

Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston and Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan led the forum in Perth yesterday, aiming to bolster WA agriculture's safety.

The meeting, first mooted on May 11, was hastily organised in response to 18 deaths across WA's agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors since the 2014-15 financial year.

The grim total exceeds the construction industry's 15 deaths and 13 mining-related deaths during the same timeframe.

"The high number of workplace deaths is unacceptable," Mr Johnston said.

"But what shocks me the most is that agriculture has far more fatalities than any other industry, including construction and mining.

"Safety in Western Australia's agriculture is a serious issue and it's important more than ever that Government and industry work together to improve workplace safety.

WAFarmers, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA, Safe Farms WA and WA Shearing Industry Association were among groups in attendance.

Mr Johnston said a whole-industry approach was important to identifying safety risks and reducing the agricultural industry's death toll.

"At the summit, we agreed that to improve workplace safety requires a cultural change and I understand this will be difficult to do, but it is achievable," he said.

"Our ambition for agriculture, is zero harm and zero deaths for workers.

"The next step is to continue discussions with these groups and to meet-up again in the next year to see what kind of incentives the State Government can develop."

In the past 10 years, dating back from the 2018/19 financial year, there have been 28 work-related deaths in the State's agriculture sector.

Ms MacTiernan said there was "a real opportunity cost to agriculture in workplace safety", citing an average of 96 days were lost annually from compensation claims.

The meeting comes ahead of Farm Safety Australia's upcoming Farm Safety Week, scheduled for July 20 to July 25.

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