Farm-related injury deaths cost the Australian economy $651 million (2008 dollars) in the four years from 2001–2004, according to Australia’s first comprehensive study of their economic impact, undertaken by Dr Kirrily Pollock, a Research Economist with Industry & Investment NSW.
Dr Pollock undertook the study as part of her PhD studies through Sydney University and the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety.
“The figure of $651 million equates to 2.7% of the 2008 farm gross domestic product (GDP), however this is a conservative estimate, as there are many other costs of a farm injury death that are unquantifiable,” Dr Pollock said
“These include grief, emotional loss, pain and suffering. While other costs lack readily available and accurate data sources, for example, loss of farm production, production delays, machinery or equipment damage, insurance, taxation and community losses.
“If you add also the costs of long-term, permanent injuries and serious injuries requiring hospitalisation, the true cost of farm-related deaths and injuries to the Australian economy would be considerably higher.”
The research focused on 404 deaths that were deemed to be caused as a direct consequence of living and working on a farm, which were extracted from the National Coroners Information System.
An economic model was developed to estimate the economic burden, incorporating both direct and indirect costs involved in a fatality, including ambulance, police, hospital, premature funeral, coronial and work safety authority investigation, death compensation costs, costs to replace the employee, lost future earnings and lost household production.
Of the deaths investigated in the study, the majority were male (86 per cent), with fatalities most commonly involving those aged 65 years and older (26 per cent), followed by children aged under 15 years (17 per cent).
The five most common causes of death were tractors, quad bikes, drownings, utilities and 2-wheel motorcycles and these were further analysed to determine the total economic cost associated with each cause.
Tractor fatalities cost the economy $87 million, followed by quad bikes at $75 million and drownings at $65 million.
“These top five causes accounted for exactly half of the deaths and 47 per cent, $304 million, of the total economic cost,” Dr Pollock said.
“There are recommendations and guidelines available through Farmsafe Australia relating to the control and risk minimisation of each of these major hazards. The potential cost savings to the Australian economy due to fewer injury deaths would be considerable if we could gain greater on-farm compliance with each of these hazard guidelines”.
The results of the study will be presented at the 55th annual Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society Conference, in Melbourne, February 8–11, 2011.