National agriculture activity plan 2014-2019

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PLAN 2014-2019

The National Agriculture Activity Plan 2014-2019 outlines key national activities undertaken by Safe Work Australia and individual Safe Work Australia Members designed to improve work health and safety outcomes in this sector.


Agriculture was identified as a high priority industry for the first five years of the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022 (Australian Strategy) due to the high number of fatalities and injuries in this sector. While the industry makes up only around 3% of the Australian workforce (including employers, employees, contractors and self-employed workers), in 2012 agriculture (including support services) accounted for 20% of worker fatalities.

The hazards and risks that are the cause of most fatalities in agriculture are generally well known (within agriculture and other industries), as are the means for their control.

Decisions about work health and safety are affected by:

  • business considerations (e.g. business structure, profitability, commitments, responsibilities, financial institutions, industry bodies and supply chain partners)

  • the operating environment (e.g. suitability of plant, access to equipment and resources, production cycle, climate and weather conditions, remoteness), and

  • personal factors (age, skills, training, education, experience, motivations, attitudes and traditions).

These factors have a major influence on productivity and are central to how work health and safety is addressed. They need to be considered when exploring opportunities for national action.

Initiatives are also likely to be more effective if championed and led by those bodies and individuals recognised and respected by the industry.

In addition to direct farmer/farm enterprise intervention, an increased focus is required on the external influences on farms and farming enterprises to identify and exploit enablers and address barriers to improvement in the industry.

The goal of the agriculture activity plan is to implement systematic management of work health and safety risks in agriculture workplaces – including corporate, private and family farms. Without this, sustainable improvements will be difficult to achieve. The focus for action will be on the identified five-year priorities.


The proposed agriculture activity plan outcomes are:

  1. for agriculture business and community leaders to promote

    1. effective and systematic risk management, and

    2. consideration of work health and safety within agriculture supply chains and networks

  2. improved capabilities of leaders, managers and workers in the agriculture sector, and

  3. improved design of rural plant, structures and work.


The five year priorities are the prevention of:

  • fatalities and injuries associated with vehicles, livestock handling and horse-riding, and

  • musculoskeletal disorders, mental disorders and work-related cancers.

Action Areas

The Australian Strategy provides the strategic framework for national activities in this priority industry. Activities to support the above outcomes are arranged under key Australian Strategy Action Areas.

Leadership and culture

One of the main barriers to health and safety in agriculture is a workplace culture which accepts high levels of risk as part of the job and of doing business, and where the actual or perceived costs of working safely are regarded as too high. The risks of workplace death, injury and illness to business sustainability may not be well understood.

The agriculture industry is strongly influenced by local rural and industry leaders. Leaders are particularly important as credible face-to-face communicators and influencers in rural communities.

Leaders can encourage adoption of business management systems which include consideration of work health and safety risks. Safe Work Australia can support research which provides evidence on the true costs and benefits of health and safety for workers, businesses and rural communities.

Supply chains and networks

Every farmer is part of a supply chain or network, established through one or more contractual arrangements (formal or informal) and sometimes applied through quality standards. These contractual arrangements and quality systems may be with processors, cooperatives, wholesalers, exporters, transporters or distributers, as well as supermarkets or restaurants. The supply chains also include suppliers of production inputs, such as plant and chemicals.

Opportunities to adopt or improve systematic management of risks may be created through the supply chain contracts and quality systems already in use.

Health and safety capabilities

A barrier to implementing systematic risk management on farms includes the availability of userfriendly, up-to-date, relevant and accessible information. This should be a focus area.

In order to be productive the agriculture industry in Australia needs a skilled and flexible workforce (whether as employer, contractor, employee or self-employed farmer). Supporting the work health and safety competencies of this workforce will continue to be required and should respond to changing business needs.

Healthy and safe by design

Good design of plant and structures can eliminate or minimise risks before they enter an agriculture workplace. Fatalities in the agriculture industry are predominantly associated with hazardous items of plant routinely used on farms: tractors, aircraft and quad bikes.

The design of work also has a significant impact on injuries, in particular musculoskeletal disorders. The supply chain has a significant influence on the design of work—for example, through the provision of safe plant that reduces manual effort and potential for human error. Contractual arrangements that are likely to be fulfilled by using unsafe work practices are another example of the design of work imposed through the supply chain.

Supporting activities

The criteria for activities to be included in the national agriculture activity plan should be:

  1. a significant activity that involves:

    • one or more Members or national bodies

      1. at least six months’ duration or

      2. a major investment of resources, or

    • multiple States or Territories (where relevant) or on at least a state-wide scale.

  2. an existing or planned activity that is likely to contribute to achieving one or more of the 2022 Outcomes of the Australian Strategy

  3. an existing or planned activity that is likely to contribute to the achievement of one or more of the targets for the Australian Strategy

  4. the activity focuses on one or more Australian Strategy Action Areas and preferably targets one or more priority industries or disorders

  5. there is an existing or proposed evaluation plan, and

  6. the results can be publicly reported and shared.

Monitoring, review and evaluation

The agriculture activity plan will be reviewed and updated annually to report on progress and incorporate additional initiatives. Activities undertaken by other stakeholders contributing to improved work health and safety in this sector will be monitored by Safe Work Australia.

A more comprehensive evaluation at three years (followed by another at the conclusion of the five year plan) will be based on the sum of the individual project evaluations, the reporting of activity progress/outcomes and the available data. Further studies may be initiated.

Table 1: Current agriculture activities as at 16 March 2016

Activity Description



Leadership and culture

  1. Collaboration with South Australia (SA) Country Women’s Association (CWA), Primary Producers SA and peak commodity group bodies.

Ongoing. The collaboration includes the dissemination of information.

SafeWork SA

  1. Dissemination of information through networks including the CWA.

Ongoing. The activity includes the development of communication material and the dissemination of information.

Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Workers’ Union

  1. Engage with relevant agencies to promote the benefits of work health and safety (WHS).

Agency representatives met with the:

  • Aviation Transport Safety Board in January 2014 to discuss safety in agriculture and ways of sharing information

  • Australian Rural Leadership Foundation in April 2015 to discuss linkages in work programs, and

  • Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership Management Committee in December 2015 to share information on current agriculture activities.

Ongoing engagement will lead to stronger networks and an increased awareness of WHS in agriculture.

Safe Work Australia

Health and safety capabilities

  1. Use data from within WorkSafe Victoria and external sources to:

  • build capability of agriculture industry to manage risk, and

  • identify sector performance and key stakeholders.

The identification of priority intervention sectors to reduce injury and fatality and the alignment of interventions and communications to national priorities is underway.

WorkSafe Victoria

  1. Get Healthy at Work (formally known as Healthy Worker Initiative) – industries targeted include agriculture.

A major focus of Get Healthy at Work is the development and provision of the Workplace Health Program.

The specific aims of the program are to reduce workers’ smoking, weight and risky drinking. The operational phase commenced in mid2014. More information is available at the Get Healthy at Work website -

SafeWork NSW in conjunction with the New South Wales (NSW) Ministry of Health.

  1. Healthy Worker Initiative – “the provision of Chronic Disease Prevention Strategies for Rural and Remote Rural Industry Workers”.

This initiative aims to encourage and support rural industry workplaces to reduce the risks of injury and chronic disease among their workers and strengthen the capacity of workers to make healthy lifestyle choices. This project is underway.

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) in conjunction with GrowCom and the Royal Flying Doctors.

  1. Serious about Farm Safety – rural small-medium size business resources which assist duty holders in the development and management of safe systems of work.

Tools and guidance materials has been made available to rural producers to assist them develop and implement appropriate safety management systems.

Developed 5000 hard copies and 20 000 CDs of the Serious About Farm Safety Package.


  1. Regional focus for capabilities in different industries including Agriculture now known as Safer Communities, Safer Town Initiative.

Ongoing. Events were held throughout NSW in 2015. Free work and safety, workers’ compensation and return to work advice were provided to business and workers. The events involved collaboration across jurisdictions and other agencies that have a small business focus. Key events included:

  • Safety van in Gundagai in October 2015 – 10 businesses signed on as eligible to receive the safety rebate.

  • Working with WorkSafe ACT to co-present to businesses in Yass in November 2015.

SafeWork NSW

Research and evaluation

  1. National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance (NHEWS) project looking at multiple hazards.

The NHEWS survey provides self-reported information on the nature and extent of Australian workers’ exposure to selected occupational disease causing hazards as well as the controls used to manage them.

The report was published in February 2015 and is available at

The data collected will provide information on exposure to multiple hazards and use of appropriate controls.

Safe Work Australia

  1. National occupational hazard and risk management surveillance (NOHARMS).

This activity is a study of workers’ exposures to noise, vibration and dusts and risk management practices in mixed crop farming in Western Australia (WA). Data has been collected between December 2013 and February 2015. A report is due for publication by mid-2016.

Safe Work Australia

  1. Small Business Return to Work Research In different industries including agriculture.

Better Regulation, in partnership with the NSW Business Chamber has commenced qualitative research among NSW small businesses and return to work coordinators. This work will help gain insight into and evaluate experiences, knowledge and perceptions about the Workers’ Compensation System and return to work processes.

A pilot focus group was conducted in the Hunter region in 2014. Second research phase commenced in the Murray-Riverina region in June 2015. A draft report is being prepared. Better Regulation will use the results to understand how well the system is working and to improve the way it engages with businesses across NSW.

SafeWork NSW/State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA)

Responsive regulatory framework

  1. Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) Agriculture Campaign – All jurisdictions 2013-2014. Focus is on guidance and support to assist local stakeholder engagement, develop safety management plans, induction of farm workers, management of plant and machinery hazards, quad bike and other riding activities, safety, animal handling and hazardous chemicals.

The objectives of this activity were to deliver improved safety management planning and the introduction of WHS systems with practical outcomes; self-assessment which is then audited by regulators and a 5% reduction in injury and fatality rates.

A report was presented to HWSA in July 2015.

SafeWork SA is leading this work.

  1. Development of national guidance material for the agriculture industry.

In January 2016 Safe Work Australia published national guidance material on managing risks of machinery used in rural workplaces and on quad bikes.

National guidance material for cattle handling has been developed for consultation and agreement by Safe Work Australia Members by the end of April 2016.

Safe Work Australia

  1. Guidance for the Horse Riding Industry.

National guidance material for the horse riding industry was published in June 2014.

Safe Work Australia

  1. Safe use of pesticides and fumigants in grain silos.

Project commenced in July 2015.

Contact has been made with businesses to verify compliance with WHS obligations.

Advice and assistance has been provided to businesses to improve safety standards.

SafeWork NSW

Multifaceted programs

  1. Multifaceted industry action plan targeting the sheep and beef cattle farming sector. Assistance for small business owners in the sheep and beef cattle industry including:

  • special promotion rebates

  • free advisory visits

  • the Return to Work Assist Program

  • rebates to implement safety solutions, and

  • small business premiums.

The aim of this activity was to reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses through reduced exposure to identified high-risk hazards and risks including working with livestock, quad bikes, tractors and occupational disease.

The completed Rebate Program assisted 9500 farmers (36% of the sector) to implement over $30 million in safety improvements addressing high-risk issues. The majority (93.6%) of this investment went to long-term infrastructure that will reduce the risk of injury on farms for future generations. This included notable outcomes in pen and yard improvements, animal restraint and handling devices, animal loading ramps with hand-rail systems and improved sunshade protection.

An industry action plan is underway.

NSW’s small business strategy will be refreshed and re-released in the first quarter of 2016.


  1. Alive and Well Farm Safety Campaign.

Farmers have been encouraged to talk to their peers about their experiences of farm safety. Information and advice has been provided to farmers on a number of themes including:

  • kids on farms

  • depression and mental health

  • looking after your people

  • using machinery

  • farm vehicles

  • when there’s an injury

  • sun exposure, and

  • working with livestock.

For further information visit

SafeWork NSW

  1. Farm Safety Days

An awareness campaign has commenced to improve capability within the primary production industry to effect positive change.

Demonstrations and short talks have been given which included information on:

  • quad bike safety

  • working safely with livestock and horses

  • working outdoors

  • child safety on farms, and

  • working with agricultural chemicals.

Nine farm safety days were undertaken during the Focus on Industry Sheep and Beef Cattle Farming Project, delivered between January to August 2015.

SafeWork NSW

  1. Targeting dairy cattle, beef cattle and mixed agriculture farm sectors with compliance visits focusing on the main mechanisms of fatalities and injury including:

  • plant used in dairy processing

  • on-farm livestock handling infrastructure

  • tractors and attachments

  • quad bikes (use of helmets, maintenance, loads and operator competency), and

  • plant maintenance.

It is expected there will be a reduction in fatalities and injury with the promotion of safe systems of work.

WorkSafe Victoria

  1. Information, instruction, training and supervision for:

  • animal handling in dairy sheds

  • mustering animals using vehicles, and

  • tagging and feeding calves.

It is expected there will be a reduction in fatalities and injury with the promotion of safe systems of work.

WorkSafe Victoria

  1. Agriculture safety projects involving an inspection campaign, training programs and focus on broadacre farming.

This is an ongoing campaign to improve WHS capabilities of farmers on broadacre farms.

WorkSafe WA

  1. 2013-2018 Tasmanian Strategic Plan.

The Tasmanian Government through its initiative of Cultivating Prosperity in Agriculture, has committed funding of $435,000 over three years to establish a program to raise awareness of farm safety issues across the State.

The program is a joint initiative of the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment and WorkSafe Tasmania.

The program objective is to reduce farm-work related death, injury and disease and improve the health and safety of workers in the Tasmanian farming industry by:

  • raising awareness of farm safety issues across the State including the packing and processing aspects of farm safety

  • producing and disseminating targeted information about farm safety, and

  • working with industry stakeholders to provide training and education on farm safety issues.

WorkSafe Tasmania employs two core strategies to assist in the delivery of services under this program where it has:

  • worked with industry partners to define events, activities and resources which, when supported, will contribute to achieving the program objective, and

  • appointed a dedicated Safe Farming Tasmania Advisor who works with peak groups and industry to raise awareness of farm safety issues across the State.

As at the end of December 2015 the program has been running with the senior health and safety consultant on board for a period of around seven months. It is starting to consolidate a reputation as a respected and trusted source of Work Health and Safety information.

WorkSafe Tasmania

  1. Under the Agriculture Industry Action Plans (horticulture and livestock), WHSQ is implementing projects for cane, intensive livestock, beef cattle, horticulture and the beef supply chain.

The aim is to reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses through reduced exposure to identified high-risk hazards and risks including storage and handling of rural chemicals, tractor and implements, quad bikes, electrical safety, with a focus on induction and training of young and transient workers.

Cane, intensive livestock, beef cattle and horticulture projects are ongoing and will continue through until 2017.

Conducting induction workshops with Ergon, the Queensland Police Service and transport as part of the cane project. On-farm assessments will also be conducted in the near future.

Livestock handling facility assessments are underway as is attendance at Field Days and completing stakeholder engagement/compliance on livestock freight and live export facilities.

Assisting in the delivery of the Beef Best Management Program in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland.

Conducting on-farm assessments in each growing region of Queensland and facilitating workshops with industry and government networks as part of the horticulture project.

A range of projects were delivered throughout 2014-15. The plans are available at:

Industry action plans for 2015-2017 are currently in development.


  1. Improve pastoralists’ WHS capabilities.

This activity includes visits to pastoralists to assist them with WHS issues. Some of the visits were filmed as NT WorkSafe’s contribution to Safe Work Australia’s virtual seminar series, held in October 2014.

NT WorkSafe is working with the NT Cattlemen’s Association to provide information and advice on WHS issues relating to the pastoral sector.

NT WorkSafe

  1. Focus on industry program in plant nurseries.

The aim of this work is to reduce soft tissue injuries resulting from muscular stress caused by lifting or handling objects, the most common reported injury in this industry sector.

Work will involve gathering information about the nursery sector through observations and interactions during workplace visits and working collaboratively with this industry to develop interventions to help improve WHS outcomes in this sector.

Commenced in early 2015.

SafeWork NSW

  1. Livestock transport project.

This activity will address the risk of falls through loading, unloading and transporting livestock.

A ‘supply chain’ project focussed on the risks of loading, unloading and transporting livestock from farm gate to abattoir was a priority in 2014-2015.

A broad scale industry engagement program has also been developed to work with the beef supply chain to identify practical solutions to high risk issues.

Ongoing through 2015.


  1. Improve WHS outcomes – Manufacturing (wine and livestock) and the agriculture and transport sectors.

SafeWork SA initiatives include:

  • Engaging with the SA Wine Industry Association visiting boutique wineries, mostly small businesses and conducting walk and talks to reiterate the importance of a safety management system, personal accountability.

  • Working with the livestock and transport sectors to address risks associated with the transport, loading and unloading of livestock animals from saleyards to abattoirs. This campaign covers safe livestock handling, manual tasks and preventing falls from trucks.

  • Attending the Primary Producers SA, Pork SA, Dairy Australia and Dairy SA conference and innovation day including workshops—reaching around 80 participants.

SafeWork SA

Key partnerships

  1. Liaise with organisations already engaged in mental health and wellness programs to build collaborations and promote national action including identification of opportunities to improve mental health and reduce seasonal fatigue through work design.

This activity aims for:

  • greater reach and impact of mental health programs which have already proven successful

  • improved mental health outcomes for farmers, workers and their communities, and

  • improved design of work.

Safe Work Australia is continuing to review mental health awareness material with Beyond Blue, developing promotional material and attending and speaking at conferences.

The Principles of Good Work Design Handbook was published on the Safe Work Australia website in August 2015. The handbook includes information on psychosocial and mental health design in workplaces.

Mental health sessions were included in the Virtual Seminar Series throughout October 2015. Topics included:

  • Becoming a mentally healthy small business

  • Heads Up: Business case for creating a mentally healthy workplace

  • Good work design and applying it to psychosocial risks, and

  • Design of work: Demonstrating the principles of good work design – live panel.

Safe Work Australia

Activities targeting quad bikes

  1. Statistics and information on quad bike safety

Ongoing quad bike fatalities are recorded and reported via Quad Watch on the Safe Work Australia website.

Safe Work Australia published an information sheet on managing risks associated with quad bikes in January 2016.

Safe Work Australia

  1. Quad bike safety in rural secondary schools.

Quad bike safety promotion is done in secondary schools, particularly rural/regional or where agricultural studies are undertaken.


  1. Promotion of quad bike safety through films

WHS Queensland is developing a number of short films about quad bike safety.


  1. State-wide Plan for the safe use of quad bikes.

The State-wide Plan for Improving Quad Bike Safety in Queensland was released in March 2016. The plan focuses on three key priorities:

  • Community education and awareness about quad bike safety risks

  • Improving quad bike operator skill and safety

  • Government leadership in promoting quad bike safety.


  1. Hazard identification and controls actively promoted on web sites, at field days, for farm workers and through the inspectorate and farm safety networks.

Ongoing strategies to eliminate or reduce risks associated with quad bike use include engagement with the agriculture industry to raise awareness.

In developing these strategies, the recommendations of the Queensland and NSW Coroners’ investigations in 2015 on quad bike fatalities will be considered.

WorkSafe Victoria, SafeWork NSW, WorkSafe WA and Comcare.

  1. Promotion of quad bike safety through Safety in Agriculture project (primarily dairy sector), Victoria Police and registered training organisations (operator and inspector training).

WorkSafe Victoria

  1. Promotion of guidance and/or risk assessment tools
    for controlling risks.

WorkSafe Victoria, SafeWork NSW, WorkSafe ACT, Comcare and SafeWork SA.

  1. Promotion of compliance with manufacturers’ directions through forums including the Agriculture Industry Safety Group.

WorkSafe Victoria and WorkSafe WA.

  1. Promotion of personal protective equipment/helmet use.

WorkSafe Victoria, WorkSafe WA and SafeWork SA.

  1. Publication of inspector and audit tools for quad bike compliance.

WorkSafe Victoria and Comcare.

  1. Technical specifications for quad bikes and associated crush protection devices.

Safe Work Australia Members are considering responses to the Queensland and NSW Coroners who identified this issue for further action.

Safe Work Australia

  1. Research on dynamic stability and crashworthiness of quad bikes and promotion of activities to support research findings.

As well as working with HWSA to establish national policy positions, SafeWork NSW is developing a NSW Quad Bike Safety Improvement Program to support the agricultural community in implementing a range of improvements to address the unacceptable level of quad bike fatalities and serious injuries on farms.

A University of NSW report was released on 3 August 2015. Key recommendations include:

  • initiating a consumer rating system for quad bikes and Side by Side Vehicles similar to the Australian New Car Assessment Program

  • retrofitting of operator protective devices for existing on-farm vehicles

  • increasing helmet wearing and training rates

  • improving data collection, increasing awareness in the farming community about the importance of vehicle selection and safe use and restricting child access.

SafeWork NSW

  1. Preventing children under 16 years from using adult quad bikes.

All jurisdictions support strategies to stop children using adult quad bikes.


  1. Reducing quad bike fleet numbers and substitution with less hazardous equipment.

Reduction of quad bikes in vehicle fleets. Campaign completed.


Web links to information about agriculture


Web link


SafeWork NSW


SafeWork SA

WorkSafe Tasmania

WorkSafe Victoria

WorkSafe WA

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