Manslaughter laws for the workplace are on the way

Manslaughter laws for the workplace are on the way

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Farmers know it and the statistics prove it - there are far too many deaths and serious accidents in agriculture. Physical labour, heavy machinery, long hours...

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Farmers know it and the statistics prove it - there are far too many deaths and serious accidents in agriculture. Physical labour, heavy machinery, long hours, solo work, exposure to the elements and unpredictable animal behaviour all contribute to the risks.

In the year to date, 30 Australians have been killed at work, and a third of those were in agriculture, forestry and fishing.

The Victorian government is developing a new criminal offence of workplace manslaughter. These laws will be used to prosecute employers whose negligence leads to the death of an employee or person visiting a workplace. The penalties include fines of up to $16 million and up to 20 years jail time.

We hope these laws are never needed to prosecute anyone in the agricultural sector. We, as farmers, need to get ahead of these laws and aim for zero deaths.

We know it's possible to dramatically reduce workplace fatalities because other industries with similar challenges have already done it. The Australian mining industry has made significant workplace safety improvements over the past decade and fatalities in their industry have dropped.

Let's use the introduction of these laws as a trigger for cultural change in our sector and on our farms.

The first step you can take is to insist on crush protection devices on all of your quad bikes. With all of the evidence of the safety risks of quad bikes, there is no excuse for not having them. To help cover the costs, the Quad Bike Safety Rebate Scheme has been extended to September 30. Call the VFF on 1300 882 833 or email bequadsafe@vff.org.au to get your rebate.

There are many simple processes you can implement to make your farm safer.

If you want to learn more, farmers can call the VFF Farm Safety Extension Officer Richard Versteegen on 0499 772 472.

- David Jochinke, VFF president

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