Quad bike accidents have been the leading cause of death and serious injury on Australian farms in the last 18 months, according to a new report.
Farmsafe Australia's inaugural Safer Farms Agricultural Injury and Fatality Trend Report 2020 was released on Wednesday.
Using the phrase 'Safer Farms, Safer Farmers', the report highlights a 10-year comparison of statistics in addition to injury and fatality trends from the last 18 months.
In 2019, there were 58 fatalities on farms, in addition to 133 non-fatal injuries. In Victoria, there were 12 fatalities and 13 non-fatal injuries.
In the first six months of 2020, there have already been 33 fatalities and 71 non-fatal injuries. Ten fatalities have occurred in Victoria, in addition to six non-fatal injuries.
The most common agents of injury and fatality are also included in the report - with quad bikes at the top of the list.
From the data for the last 18 months - derived from AgHealth Australia and their Australian Farm Deaths and Injuries Media Monitors Snapshot - 22 per cent of deaths and 35 per cent of non-fatal injuries involved quad bikes.
In the first six months of this year, there have been nine quad bike deaths across Australia, including two in Victoria, compared to 11 during the whole of 2019.
During the last 10 years, quad bikes were involved in the deaths of 128 people on farms, in addition to hundreds more injuries.
Deaths related to quad bikes have not been prevalent in the Ballarat region, with WorkSafe only receiving one claim related to quad bike injury from the region encompassing Ballarat, Hepburn, Pyrenees, Golden Plains and Moorabool since January 1, 2016.
Following quad bikes, incidents involving tractors resulted in the deaths of 13 per cent of people, followed by incidents involving animals and side by side vehicles - both at 8 per cent.
Farmsafe Australia chair Charles Armstrong has been advocating for quad bike reform for many years. He said quad bike fatalities were no longer an emerging trend, but a consistent issue.
"I have spent much of my advocacy career lobbying for mandatory crush protection devices due to the alarming rate of injuries and fatalities that were occurring on farms," he said.
"In the report, we point to 9 quad bike deaths in the last six months but since writing, the number has risen to 12. That is higher than 2019 and we are only halfway through 2020."
Mr Armstrong acknowledged there were strong opinions about his position and accusations he had not listened to farmers or advocated for their needs.
"I will be the first to tell you how valuable the quad bike is to Australian farmers. But no tool is worth as much as a human life," he said.
"I cannot think of a more important need to advocate for, than the need to come home safely at night."
He said similar arguments were made when rollover protection became mandatory on tractors in 1982 but since then, there had been more than a 70 per cent decline in rollover fatalities.
The report comes after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission recently legislated that OPDs must be fitted to all new quad bikes as well as to imported secondhand quad bikes.
Honda, Yamaha and Polaris have all stated they will stop selling their quad bikes in Australia when the regulation comes into effect in October 2021, while there has also been backlash from farmers who argue it is an abuse of regulatory powers.
Mr Armstrong said he was "genuinely saddened" by companies threatening to pull out of the market due to this legislation and that the wellbeing of their customers was not motivation for change.
He also said he agreed with other safety measures including making helmets and training mandatory, in addition to banning children from riding adult quad bikes and would continue to advocate for them.
"The thing about safety is that it isn't just one factor that could 'save a life' or minimise injury. There are a multitude of variables at play when accidents happen and any one factor could tip the situation from being an accident that someone walks away from, to being a tragedy that friends and family are left to mourn."
The report also highlights that most farm deaths are males older than 50 and children younger than 15.
The release of the report kickstarts a new era of farm safety education and awareness from the organisation, as part of a wider $1.9 million revitalisation project which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment.
The report also indicates the difficulties in making farms safer and addresses a need for safety messaging to address established cultural behaviour on farms.
Executive officer Stevi Howdle said consistent safety messages needed to be communicated directly to farmers.
- With Australian Associated Press
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