Plea for caution after three farm deaths in three days

23 May 2016

WorkSafe is calling on all farmers to make safety their absolute priority following a horror period in which three men died in separate farming incidents over the past three days.

Yesterday, a man died when his quad bike overturned and crushed him on his property near Merrijig, east of Mansfield. The man, 65, is believed to have been riding the bike up a hill when it overturned.

On Saturday, a farmer, 49, died when he got caught in an air seeder being towed behind his tractor on a farm at Marnoo in the Wimmera.

On Friday, a farmer, 61, died when he became entangled under a feed mixer being towed behind his tractor. The incident occurred on a dairy farm near Echuca.

WorkSafe’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said WorkSafe investigators were continuing to make inquiries into each incident and it would be inappropriate to comment about the specifics of each case.

However, she said the three tragedies had left families mourning the loss of loved ones and local communities in shock.

“Farmers owe it to themselves, their families and their friends to make safety a permanent part of their daily life,” Ms Williams said.

Ms Williams said farming was a high-risk industry, which made safety essential. “Farmers work with a range of heavy machinery and attachments, and usually work alone and a long way from help if an incident occurs,” she said.

“Farmers also often need to do the same task the same way, day-in, day-out. But, over time, complacency can creep in and that can prove deadly.”

Ms Williams said undertaking simple safety measures could make the difference between life and death.

“For example, choose the right plant and equipment for the task and make sure all machinery is switched off and disengaged when undertaking maintenance.

“And ensure machinery is properly secured when undertaking maintenance underneath.”

Ms Williams said agriculture employed just 3 per cent of Victorian workers but suffered almost 30 per cent of all workplace fatalities. Prior to Friday’s dairy farm fatality there had already been four confirmed workplace fatalities in the agriculture sector in 2016.

“The shocking fact is that farmers are far more likely to die at work than any other Victorian worker. It is why no one should think that it can’t happen to them,” she said.

“If they don’t make safety their priority, the chances are that it will.”

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