Farmers are being urged to remain vigilant against the “silent killer” that is complacency after 46 people died while working on Australian farms last year. The shocking statistic actually marked an improvement, with 12 fewer lives lost nationally compared to both 2020 and 2019, according to a recent report by Farmsafe Australia. Farmsafe Australia marked national Farm Safety Week — which runs from July 18 to 24 — with the launch of a new education campaign about the “intangible factors” leading to workplace injuries and fatalities. It’s hoped the Recipe for Averting Disaster campaign — which covers topics such as child safety, mental health, fatigue, labour shortages and complacency — will lead to fewer injuries and fatalities on farms. In a statement released this week, Farmsafe Australia said while last year’s lower death toll was “a significant step forward for the industry”, each incident was still a tragedy. Chair Felicity Richards applauded the progress made but said more had to be done to foster an industry-wide culture that prioritised and championed safety above all else. “It’s so important we continue to encourage open conversation and education around safety on farms, particularly around those often hard-to-measure factors such as complacency or fatigue which contribute heavily to workplace incidents,” she said. “Experienced farmers often think if they are yet to experience a farm-related injury, they never will. “It’s time to change this narrative and encourage farmers of all experience levels to prioritise their safety.” In Australia last year, nearly 59 per cent of farm deaths involved people aged 45 or older. Farmsafe Australia said over-familiarity or taking short cuts while completing dangerous jobs was often a precursor to serious incidents but , Farmsafe Australia said, though this was hard to measure through statistics. Earlier this month, WorkSafe WA commissioner Darren Kavanagh launched a landmark enquiry into the number of deaths in the State’s agriculture industries over the past five years. The probe comes after a 24-year-old farmer in the Great Southern became the 12th person to die while working in the sector in as many months. “Any work-related death is a tragedy,” Mr Kavanagh said. “The statistics for the agricultural industry are not acceptable and it is deeply concerning that the number of fatalities in the industry continues to increase.” Farmsafe Australia executive officer Stevi Howdle recalled a terrifying near-miss on her NSW horse property several years ago, which she said “could have ended my life in a gruesome manner”. “After a very rainy night, I was driving down a hill to enter a paddock when the ute began to slide, very slowly, but I didn’t have control,” she said. “The ute slid sideways into the plain wire fence and finally came to a stop with an almighty bang. “I jumped out of the ute and saw a star picket had flipped, pierced the bottom of the ute and come straight up under my seat.” While the unexpected outcome was virtually impossible to anticipate, Ms Howdle said the risk of losing control of her ute was “pretty clear” and should have been avoided. “Looking back, I knew the hill was too slippery to drive straight down,” she said. “I could have chosen to drive on an angle or even walked down, but I was intent on getting the job done fast. “For farmers, income is dependent on the quality and quantity of our product and we try to squeeze in as much work as we can every day to increase that yield. Rushing seems to become part of every day and that is a risk in itself.” Ms Richards said every farmer understood the unique risks on their own farm and urged them to “take an extra moment” to weigh up those factors. She said it was important to remember harm could be mental as well as physical, a comment echoed by Grain Producers Australia chair Barry Large, who urged farmers to check in on their friends and loved ones. “One of the main messages we want to share with other farmers is the importance of mates talking to mates and doing what we can to look out for each other,” Mr Large said. “This is not only important during Farm Safety Week but every day … As farmers we always work hard but it’s also vitally important to remind ourselves that it’s just as important to take a break.” The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has also backed Farm Safety Week. Department spokeswoman Rosemary Deininger said Australian farmers were “some of the best in the world” but did not always prioritise their well-being. “We want to ensure farm-safe behaviours are instilled into current farmers and the next generation of farmers to further reduce the risk of injuries and accidents,” she said.