Workplace deaths rise in 2016: Worksafe, Victorian Farmers Fedaration

WORKPLACE deaths tripled in the Wimmera in 2016, with three lives lost in tragic farming incidents. 

A total of 26 people lost their lives at a Victorian workplace in 2016 compared to 19 in 2015, according to WorkSafe Victoria statistics.

Victorian Farming Federation president and Murra Warra farmer David Jochinke said while national workplace deaths had dropped from 195 to 176, more must be done to ensure every worker got home safely at the end of the day. 

Mr Jochinke said the agriculture industry in particular needed to improve.

“Any death is one too many,” he said.

“Farming and agriculture is still over represented.”

On March 29 a 70-year-old man died when he fell from a front-end loader while undertaking maintenance work at Dimboola

On May 21 at Marnoo, a 49-year-old farmer died after he became entangled in a seeder being towed by a tractor. Eight days later a 73-year-old Navarre farmer died after he was run over by a backhoe. 

Mr Jochinke said the deaths had a huge affect on the immediate farming community and wider Wimmera region.

“When talking about a workplace death – that is a loved one, a friend, a person who you associate with. It’s someone from the community who is removed because of an untimely accident. It’s tragic, there’s no other word for it,” he said.

Mr Jochinke said the agricultural industry faced inherent risks, but actions could be taken to decrease the risk of a fatality or workplace injury. 

“We don’t work in teams per se, so it’s vital to let people know where you are going and when to expect you back,” he said.

“If you have mobile reception it’s important to have a phone or a radio in case you get into strife.

“We’ve also come from a culture of ‘she’ll be right’, but that’s no longer acceptable. 

“We need to do our part to ensure everyone gets home at night.”

Mr Johinke said it was important to ensure workplace safety not just for workers and business owners, but for family members and children as well.

“Farming itself is inherently your home and your workplace all in one,” he said.

“We often have children and loved ones with us all the time. It’s a great part of farming, but it means you must be doubly aware.”

“You need to ensure there are safe zones for children to play and for people to relax in away from work and machinery.”

Mr Jochinke said coming out of a strong farming season was the perfect time to look at updating machinery and doing jobs that might have been neglected. 

“Given the fact it’s coming into a bit of a downtime in the Wimmera after harvest, I’d encourage people to take a step back and look at jobs to do and the machinery used,” he said.

“We’ve had a reasonable season so look at modifying bins so they’re bottom opening, or even update a piece of antiquated equipment that is giving you grief.

“There’s no distinction between farming and any other workplace. We are businesses, we work long hours, but there’s no excuse for not being safe.”

Mr Jochinke said injuries to a farm owner or a worker took a primary provider away from day-to-day jobs, either for recuperation or paperwork and cost more than addressing safety head on. 

“Take those extra five minutes on a job to make sure you get back home to loved ones,” he said.