FARMERS and workers are being urged to put safety first, with agriculture remaining one of Victoria's most dangerous industries.
Victorian farmers and workers continue to be overrepresented in workplace deaths. Despite only employing about two per cent of working Victorians, they make up about 14 per cent of annual workplace fatalities.
Death and injury statistics paint a picture of just how dangerous it can be: in the past three years, 24 people have died in farm workplace incidents across the state while 424 people working in agriculture - or about eight people each week - were injured seriously enough to lodge a worker's compensation claim.
This region is no different. Locally there were 28 agriculture-related injury claims accepted by WorkSafe from the Central Highlands area (encompassing the City of Ballarat, Golden Plains Shire, Hepburn Shire, Pyrenees Shire, Moorabool Shire and Ararat Rural City) in 2020.
There was also one workplace fatality on a farm. Last July, a 60-year-old farmer died after his tractor rolled on a property at Myrniong. It is believed he was slashing on uneven ground when the incident occurred.
Of the farm fatalities in the past decade, 79 per cent were associated with vehicles.
Last month there were two tractor accidents in less than 48 hours - a woman in her 50s was flown to the Royal Melbourne Hospital after being trapped under a tractor at Ross Creek on February 15, while a man in his 70s was taken to hospital with leg injuries following an accident at Magpie on February 16.
The incidents prompted renewed calls for more education to change attitudes.
At the time, Victorian Farmers' Federation senior farm safety advisor, John Darcy, told The Courier there needed to be a change in attitude from farmers and farm employees to prevent further accidents.
This week WorkSafe launched a six-week advertising campaign across regional television, print, radio, digital and social media channels.
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Targeting owner-operator farmers, their workers and families it highlights the cost of not putting safety first.
The key message 'it's never you, until it is' aims to challenge a common mindset among farmers and agriculture workers that a serious incident won't happen to them.
WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Julie Nielsen, said the campaign would highlight that experience alone does not prevent workplace accidents on farms.
"Farmers know their land and machinery like the back of their hand, but that doesn't make you bulletproof," she said.
"It might be easy to think that a tragic incident will never happen on your farm, but if safety is not your top priority then the chances are high that it will.
It might be easy to think that a tragic incident will never happen on your farm, but if safety is not your top priority then the chances are high that it will.WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Julie Nielsen
"Farmers owe it to themselves, their families, their workers and communities to always keep safety front of mind and make it a permanent part of their daily life."
The campaign is part of a push to shift attitudes around farm safety through WorkSafe's Agriculture Strategy 2020-23.
The strategy outlines how WorkSafe will engage with industry to drive change and encourage a mindset that farm workplace deaths and injuries are preventable, not inevitable.
It focuses on high-risk hazards such as machinery, livestock and chemicals and will involve collaboration with industry to improve the safety of vulnerable employees, including migrant and seasonal workers.
The strategic approach also includes collaborative education programs, new guidance and targeted compliance and enforcement activities.