Farmers, older workers dominate workplace death toll

WorkSafe is urging Victorian workplaces to re-think their approach to safety following a rise in the number of fatalities at work in 2017.
News article published

Thursday 11 Jan 2018

Industries and topics
  • Agriculture
  • Health and safety representatives

WorkSafe is urging Victorian workplaces to re-think their approach to safety following a rise in the number of fatalities at work in 2017.

A total of 27 Victorians lost their lives as a result of an incident at a workplace last year - the highest toll since 2009.

This includes 14 deaths from incidents on farms, which is the highest number of farm fatalities since 2004.

Tragically, the first Victorian workplace death of 2018 also occurred on a farm. Last Thursday, a stock agent in his 50s was trampled to death while drafting cattle on a farm at Georges Creek near Albury Wodonga.

WorkSafe's Head of Operations and Emergency Management, Adam Watson said the horrific 2017 toll showed that employers and workers needed to think more constructively about what they could do to improve safety at work.

"This toll is more than a statistic. It represents families and friendship circles missing loved ones, workplaces devastated by the death of a colleague, and local communities left with a gap that can never be filled," Mr Watson said.

"Employers and workers need to focus on how they can contribute to making their workplace safer. Who would hesitate to take steps to improve safety at work if it meant saving the life of someone they cared about?"

Mr Watson said that while the circumstances of each fatality varied, the failure to identify and adequately manage hazards was a common theme, especially on farms and where vehicles were involved.

He said older workers continued to be over-represented in the statistics.

"Employers, particularly those using farm vehicles such as quad bikes, need to remind their workers to recognise risks and prioritise safety before attempting a task," Mr Watson said.

"Age and experience can never be an excuse to forget about safety. Nine of the people who died last year were over the age of 65, and 23 were aged 45 or older.

"Many of those who died were doing tasks they have done many times before, so it is important that everyone takes the time to plan their day with safety in mind.

"Together we must do more to reduce this terrible toll."

Of the 2017 fatalities:

  • 20 occurred in regional Victoria and seven were in greater metropolitan Melbourne
  • 16 involved vehicles or mobile machinery
  • The eldest was a 98-year-old resident of a nursing home who fell while being transferred from a bed
  • The youngest was a six-year-old boy, who died after falling from a ride at the Rye Carnival in April
  • All but two were males
  • Nine were aged 65 or older
  • No deaths were recorded among workers aged from 15-26.

Workplace deaths in 2017

11 Jan: A 61-year-old woman died after she was struck by a truck, as she drove a tractor and trailer loaded with fruit across a road at Narrung near Swan Hill.

17 Feb: A 38-year-old man died after a quad bike towing a trailer flipped and rolled at Reedy Flat in East Gippsland.

18 Feb: A 52-year old man died after he fell from, and was then struck by, a skip bin that fell off the tines of a forklift. The incident occurred at Foster.

21 Feb: A 69-year-old painter died after falling through a void on the second storey of a construction site in Merricks North.

16 Mar: A 65-year-old man died after he was run over by a company van as he tried to stop it rolling down a driveway in Tullamarine.

17 Mar: A 68-year-old man died after he was struck by a tractor that he jump-started in a machinery shed in Meredith.

23 Mar: A 53-year-old man was run over by a tractor while picking grapes at Wandin East.

23 Mar: A 47-year-old man died after falling from a trailer being pulled by a tractor at Myrrhee.

29 Mar: A 64-year-old man died after the cabin of his prime mover was crushed by its load at Allansford.

21 April: A 6-year-old boy died after he fell from an amusement ride at a carnival in Rye.

20 May: A 53-year-old shopfitter died after falling from a ladder in Maidstone.

20 June: A 55-year-old man died when the spreader truck he was using rolled on steep terrain at Limestone, near Yea.

21 June: A 45-year-old man died when he fell from a stationary truck at a chicken breeding farm at Freshwater Creek, near Geelong.

27 June: A 68-year-old carpenter died after falling from the second level of a house under construction at Kalkallo.

27 June: A 48-year-old stable hand died after she fell from a horse during training at White Hills, near Bendigo.

13 July: A 98-year-old male died after he fell while being transferred from a bed at a nursing home at Mentone.

11 Aug: An 82-year-old company director died after falling down a flight of stairs at a business in Carlton.

11 Aug: A 55-year-old man died when he was crushed by a bull at Bamawm, south of Echuca.

10 Sept: A 39-year-old man died after he was thrown from a cherry picker he was loading onto a truck when it was struck by a car at Braeside.

22 Sept: A 69-year-old man died after the quad bike he was operating overturned on a farm at Hesket, near Romsey.

19 Oct: A 55-year-old farm contractor riding a two-wheel motor bike died after riding into a ditch at Yarck.

24 Oct: A 58-year-old man was crushed while loading machinery onto a float in Mildura.

15 Nov: A 27-year-old man died after being stung by bees while working in a garden at Dunkeld.

20 Nov: A 72-year-old man died when the rough terrain utility vehicle he was driving tipped over on a property at Bonnie Doon.

30 Nov: A 76-year-old man died in hospital from burns after sparks from the angle grinder he was using caused a fire at a property at Corindhap, near Ballarat.

6 Dec: A 59-year-old man was crushed while loading heavy machinery into a shipping container at a former dairy processing plant at Leitchville.

15 Dec: A 49-year-old man was crushed by a bull while drafting livestock at a cattle property at Dunkeld.

Workplace fatalities by year

Year Fatalities
2008 22
2009 30
2010 23
2011 25
2012 18
2013 21
2014 23
2015 19
2016 26
2017 27*

Workplace fatalities in 2017 by age group

Age group Fatalities
0-15 1
15-24 0
25-34 1
35-44 2
45-54 7
55-64 7
65+ 9

* Note: Official toll subject to change pending investigation outcomes

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