An inquiry has made recommendations to reduce risks in some of the most dangerous work in Australia. 

An independent inquiry into workplace safety in Western Australia's agricultural sector has recommended that WorkSafe establish a levy on the industry to enable increased oversight and the hiring of six new inspectors. 

The inquiry was established in June 2022 following the deaths of 12 workers in the agricultural sector in the previous year. Three more workers have died since the inquiry was launched. 

WorkSafe independent inquirer, Pam Scott, has released her report into agricultural safety with eight recommendations to improve safety. 

WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh supported the majority of the recommendations. 

The report identified a “risk-taking culture” in some sections of the industry. 

“Farmers tend to be quite resourceful. They're often working remotely, and the report has identified that some farmers do take unnecessary risks,” said Mr. Kavanagh. 

The inquiry also highlighted that many in the sector were keen to improve safety. 

Between 2011 and 2021, 42 agriculture, fishing, and forestry workers were killed at work. The majority of them were working on farms and were either crushed by machinery, hit by vehicles, or entangled in equipment. 

The inquiry reported that agriculture had the highest number of deaths of any sector. Ms Scott also found that injuries were under-reported. 

The report also found that the government and the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation, and Safety (DMIRS), which includes WorkSafe, needed to increase inspection activity. WorkSafe has accepted the recommendation to bring in six new specialist inspectors. 

One recommendation not being immediately supported is a proposal to introduce a levy on the industry, to be matched by the government, to fund safety education. 

Mr Kavanagh said that would require further discussion, but in the meantime, funding had been provided to WorkSafe to support increased advertising. 

Safe Farms WA Executive Director Maree Gooch said education and a change in attitude from both farmers and regulators would be a critical part of the response. 

“Some in the ag industry think there is an impost of doing work health and safety on your business,” Ms Gooch says. 

“So I think we need to change the rhetoric around WHS and make sure it underpins every decision because that will increase profitability.”

Agriculture Minister Jackie Jarvis said she was yet to be briefed on the full scope of the report's recommendations, but agreed that change is needed. 

“I'm from a farming family. I do think farming businesses perhaps need to step up a little bit with regards to farm safety,” she said. 

“Perhaps, as small businesspeople, we are a little bit complacent about our own safety.”