Farmers have been warned to take the lead in improving on-farm safety or face government intervention and regulation.
While agriculture accounted for three per cent of the state’s workforce, the industry accounted for an alarming half of Victoria’s 27 workplace related deaths last year.
During Victorian Farmers Federation’s (VFF) annual grains conference held in Geelong this week, grains group president Ross Johns said it was an issue farmers had to confront.
“As an industry we absolutely have to do something about this safety record,” Mr Johns said.
“It’s important for our families, for our workers, for our contractors that come onto our businesses. that we need to make a change.
“If we don’t recognise the need to address this, someone else will be coming in and enforcing change on us.”
Mr Johns warned of government regulation if the current statistics did not improve.
“Those conversations will be tough and hard. There will be people who will be fined and held accountable for the structure and unsafe work practices on their farms,” he said.
“But safety is a critical thing and we need to move down a safety pathway, which will result in fewer death and accidents.”
He said even small deviations, such as the promotion of roll-over protection for quad bikes, moved farmers “incrementally down a safety pathway”.
“We need to make a conscious decision to change what we do, to make Victorian farmers’ lives safer,” he said.
Mr Johns said the VFF had produced safety checklists, covering chemical storage, farm equipment, machinery, hazards and infrastructure.
“That is my passion – zero harm for agriculture is my aim,” he said.
Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said when farmers made up three per cent of the workforce - but accounted for half the deaths, “we are doing something badly, badly wrong”.