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Working and Dying in the Outback


Farms are one of the most dangerous workplaces in Australia.

Every three days someone dies on a farm in this country, and country kids are often involved in accidents, probably because the family home is generally on the farm, and country kids are used to giving a helping hand in the day to day function of feeding the chooks, bringing in the cows, or riding down to the gate to get the mail.

Of course due to the nature of the farming industry, medical help is often difficult and time-consuming to access, and this adds to the trauma of victims and families.


  • Jan 3 .2012. A 39-year-old man had his leg crushed in a potato harvester near Gatton. He sustained serious injuries and was airlifted by helicopter to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane.
  • May 10. 2012. Two men injured in separate farm accidents near Moree. A 56-year-old man had his leg seriously injured after being caught in an auger on a property, and a man in his 20’s is having micro-surgery to his hand after being caught in a cotton harvester. They were both airlifted by helicopter to Newcastle.
  • Nov 7. 2012. One man is dead and one is in serious condition after their ute became bogged while inspecting bores on a property in Qld’s remote southwest. They were only 14km’s from the homestead, but the temperature was in the high 40’s, and they chose to walk back instead of staying with the vehicle.
  • Nov 12. 2012. A 55-year-old man was rushed to Brisbane after ingesting herbicide. He had been filling a back/pack sprayer with the highly toxic weed killer when the container ruptured and splashed the chemical on his face and mouth. He died in hospital the following day.

The Australian Centre for Agriculture Health and Safety which is based in Moree is leading the charge to better educate farmers. They are working with government bodies and farming organisations to make primary producers more aware of their duty of care to themselves, families and employees.

Top of the list of dangers includes:

  • Vehicles: Tractors, quad bikes, motor bikes.
  • Machinery: Harvesting equipment, headers, augers, chainsaws.
  • Water: Tanks, dams, creeks, ponds. ( Drowning is a major cause of toddlers deaths on farms )
  • Animals: Horses, cows. ( Kicks, bites, falls, crushing injuries )
  • Confined spaces: Silo’s, tanks, bins.
  • Electricity: Faulty switches, extension cords, high equipment under power lines.
  • Weather: Heatstroke.
  • Chemicals: Pesticides, herbicides.
  • Heights: Ladders, silo’s, windmills.

There are now specific Regulations and Codes of Practice for the rural sector.

Whether a small farm, or a large rural corporation, farm managers now have an obligation to all persons on the property: to provide training in safe practices, supply personal protection equipment, eliminate risks, apply systems to deal with injuries, and keep occupational health and safety records.

New Workplace Health and Safety laws in Queensland now mean that farm employers are liable for hefty fines and longer prison terms if they do not put in place systems to protect workers and visitors.

Listen to our interview with Lawyer, Jeff Garrett from Attwood Marshall Lawyers.