Farms get hard-headed on safety

Thursday, 22 April, 2004

The iconic image of the Australian bush - a horseman rounding up stock with a battered Akubra on his head - is under threat. It could disappear as farms are forced to concentrate on safety and possible legal action if farm workers are injured.

In the NSW Industrial Relations Commission recently, the owners of a cattle station pleaded guilty to safety breaches following the death of a 23-year-old jackaroo, Daniel Croker, in 2001. The case, the first of its kind to go before the commission, could result in hard hats replacing the traditional Akubra worn by stockmen and farmers. Croker, from Goulburn, was killed when he was thrown from a horse and dragged under its hooves during mustering at Gunbar station, at Merriwagga, western NSW.

WorkCover prosecuted Gunbar's owners, BH MacLachlan (NSW) Pty Ltd, claiming the company failed to provide equipment, supervision and training to ensure Croker's safety.

According to the national farm safety organisation, Farmsafe, agriculture is the second most dangerous industry in Australia. There is on average one death on a farm every three days. Horses are involved in many accidents.

The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety said mustering on horseback was risky because it involved riding an unpredictable animal at high speed after excited stock, often in rough or hilly terrain.

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