Farming can be dangerous

Farmers have a higher risk of experiencing a serious or fatal workplace injury, have higher incidence of cardiovascular (heart) disease, some cancers and suicide. Some of the challenges for farm men and women are that they often live and work at the same place. This means that some of the work place risks are present every day, even when not working. People can become acclimatised to these risks and accept risk-taking behaviour as part of everyday farming work and life. This may make people complacent and stop actively looking for ways to reduce risk.

In 2018, the rate of work-related injury fatalities for agriculture was 11.2 deaths per 100,000 workers. While this is less then the five year average, agriculture continues to be the highest risk occupational group—with around 10 times the rate of fatality when compared to the general employed population. 26% of all work-related deaths occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries

In the five year period from 2014-2018, 188 workers died while working in the Agriculture industry. Workers over the age of 65 years account for almost a third (31%) of all fatalities, with over half (57%) of all deaths occurring in sheep, beef cattle and grain farming. Children under the age of 15 years are also a high-risk group, particularly when playing or helping out with farm jobs. The mix of home, work and recreation creates a complex environment for children to be a part of, and precautions need to be taken to minimise risk of injury. More than two-thirds (69%%) of farm deaths in the 5 years to 2018 involved a vehicle with tractors and quad bikes continuing to pose a high risk. See Safe Work Australia for more information.

In 2016-17, agriculture also had the highest rate of serious workplace injury claims, with 18.7 serious claims per 1,000 workers— twice the rate of claims for the overall working population.

In NSW from January 2010 to June 2014, there were 6278 people admitted to hospital as a result of an injury on a farm. These most commonly occur through slips, trips and falls, livestock handling, machinery use and farm vehicles. Males have a higher proportion of injuries than females, particularly for injuries involving motorbikes. Females are more likely to sustain horse related injuries than males.

Farms are amongst the most dangerous workplaces in Australia. This is compounded by our ageing farm workforce and farm workers being more likely to work alone than many other occupations. However, many farm related accidents can be prevented if all workers use proper safety procedures and safety equipment at all times. Organisations such as Farmsafe can offer valuable advice on improving health and safety at your farm.

Fast facts:

  • Farms account for more than one in five of all workplace deaths in Australia.
  • People under 15 and over 65 are particularly at risk of injury or death on the farm.
  • Make your farm safer by maintaining equipment, putting safety procedures in place and making sure everybody is trained and aware of potential dangers.

References used for this topic

AgHealth Australia
Reports and Publications

WorkSafe Victoria

Safe Work Australia
Work-related traumatic injury fatalities, Australia 2018
Work-related injury and disease – Key WHS statistics Australia 2018

More information:

WorkSafe Victoria
Working alone on farms guidelines
Farming: Safety Basics

Farmsafe Australia
Child safety on farms

Women’s and Children’s Health Network
Farm safety

ABC Health and Wellbeing
Fact File: Farm safety

Research & reviews:

OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying
Suicide and accidental death for Australia’s farming families: How context influences individual response

Safe Work Australia
Exploring the experience of family farmers

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Farm injury hospitalisations in New South Wales (2010 to 2014)