WA Farm Deaths Need Urgent Action - UnionsWA

WA Farm Deaths Need Urgent Action

UnionsWA has responded to the release today of a WorkSafe Inquiry report into work fatalities in WA’s agricultural sector. The WorkSafe Commissioner has also released his response to that report. In 2021-22 twelve WA farmers were killed at work.

Owen Whittle, UnionsWA Secretary said:


“Hard work, often in remote locations exposed to extremes of climate, contribute to farmers being an iconic occupation in Australian culture.


"The agricultural sector accounts for three percent of all working hours across WA, yet it accounted for twenty-five percent of all work fatalities across the decade to 2021-22.


“In other words, despite accounting for only one in thirty of hours worked, the agricultural sector accounts for one in four of work deaths.


“This highlights that agricultural work an unacceptably dangerous industry for workers and is in dire need of safety reform.


“There are just way too many deaths – overwhelmingly mature and older men – fathers, grandfathers, and brothers – who don’t come home at the end of their working day.


“The report calls on WorkSafe WA to give a higher priority to the agricultural sector and the Commissioner has agreed to this, which is welcomed.


“Given the high level of injury and risk in the industry the recommendation of a levy on the sector to partly fund safety campaigns is clearly justified and UnionsWA calls on the WA Government to act urgently to implement this.


"We share concerns with the reviewer regarding the fearmongering from a range of organisations arising from the implications of new Work Health and Safety Act and industrial manslaughter offence provisions.


“Unfortunately, a culture of ignoring safety has become embedded in parts of the industry with the report noting that, quote:

“...some of the industry’s leaders have expressed the view that the time and effort needed to promote safety in their own workplaces is a waste of time or a nuisance.[1]

"The Report at page fifteen also notes, quote:

“…that there is a fear of the regulator amongst many in the industry, and that this results in a desire by a large section of the industry to be invisible to the regulator. At the same time, the very limited resources devoted to the industry by DMIRS and the regulator has not assisted in overcoming the problems of safety within the industry.[2]

“This begs the question: Why do sections of the agricultural sector fear a regulator that has been largely absent from the field due to a lack of resources?”


Further information

The Report and response from the WorkSafe Commission are available online here.

[1] P. 43

[2] P.15

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