About 150 persons die from non–intentional injury each year on Australian farms. Between 300 and 350 male farmers and farm workers die a traumatic death from all causes each year. The mortality rate in Australian farming is approximately four times that of the all-industries rated (19.5 per 100,000 employees compared to 5.5 per 100,000 employees) (Durey and Lower, 2004).
The rate of workers compensation claims from agriculture, forestry and fishing in 2001-2002 was 27 per thousand employees. There are about 4,500 claims each year made by workers in the agricultural and horticultural industries. Also self employed farmers are not obliged to report injuries so that the incidence reported may be an underestimate.
In the four years 1989-1992 a total of 55 people were fatally injured while involved in work related fishing industries (NOHSC, 1999). Between 1991 and 2001 a total of 16 professional fishermen drowned as a result of falling or being washed from commercial fishing vessels in Victorian waters.
Available statistics indicate that there is a higher rate of suicide among rural populations generally, and farmers in particular. For example, in the period 1988 to 1997, 921 suicides were identified for farm managers and agricultural labourers (Page & Fragar, 2002). The ABS reports that between 1988 and 1998, the suicide rate was up to 17 per 100,000 persons per year in rural areas, compared to 12-13 per 100,000 in the capital cities.
The health status and determinants of health (e.g. death rates, income etc) are generally worse in rural and remote areas than in metropolitan areas. There is a need to identify factors that contribute to this discrepancy, particularly as it is likely to apply to farmers and fishers.
There is a prevailing opinion that many farm and fishing injuries and deaths are preventable.
The Collaborative partnership for farming and fishing health and safety is funded by RIRDC, the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, Sugar Research and Development Corporation and Cotton Research and Development Corporation.
The key target audiences for health and safety information are business owners, managers and employees, who with their families live on Australian farms and in fishing communities.
Improvement in the physical and mental well-being of these groups resulting from investment in RD&E is the key outcome of the Program. The Program has also improved consultation and communication with health professionals and researchers working in the field of rural health and safety.
Thirty projects have been completed.