Emerging work health and safety impacts on farmers

Research question

How can the work health and safety of farmers be improved during pressures from an increasingly variable climate?

What is this research about?

Poor mental health is an important work health and safety risk for male-dominated industries in Australia and abroad (Milner, Spittal, Pirkis, & LaMontagne, 2013). In NSW over the period 2000-2009, the suicide rate amongst farmers was 13.51 per 100000 with increasing suicide rates observed amongst older farmers (Arnautovska et al. 2016). By comparison, there were an average 10 suicides per 100000 people each year in the same period amongst the NSW population (Healthstats NSW, 2019).

Considering the changing nature of work and the mental health implications of an increasingly variable climate, farmers are facing a complex set of challenges to reduce these climatic impacts, as they shift to more sustainable land management practices (IPCC, 2019; Centre for WHS, 2019).

Research suggests that a farm’s vulnerability to change will be dependent on a combination of exposure (e.g., climate variability, technological advancement) and level of resilience (e.g., adaptive capacity, demographic sensitivity, financial and social capital) (Sadiq et al., 2019).

Our horizon scan examined the literature and current situation and highlighted the following four prominent approaches for adapting to change;

  1. Farming diversification
  2. Farm ownership and management models
  3. Technological advancements in farming
  4. Regenerative farming.

What will the researchers do?

The researchers will work with farming communities in Australia to explore how sustainable farming practices may offer co-benefits when it comes to the prevention of work health and safety harm amongst farmers.

This will include developing a suite of sustainable and scalable solutions (incl. those identified in the Centre’s horizon scan) that will simultaneously deliver benefits to:

  1. Farmer health and safety
  2. Business productivity
  3. The environment.

Research partners and stakeholders

Institute of Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney


Project commenced: 1 April 2020

Project completion: December 2021

Want to know more?

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Further reading

Arnautovska, U., McPhedran, S., Kelly, B., Reddy, P., & De Leo, D. (2016). Geographic variation in suicide rates in Australian farmers: Why is the problem more frequent in Queensland than in New South Wales? Death studies, 40(6), 367-372.

Healthstats NSW. (2019 ). Suicide in NSW 1988 to 2017. Retrieved from http://www.healthstats.nsw.gov.au/Indicator/men_suidth/men_suidth

IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, et al., (eds.)]. In press.

Milner, A., Spittal, M. J., Pirkis, J., & LaMontagne, A. D. (2013). Suicide by occupation: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 203(6), 409-416.

Sadiq, S., A. Saboor, F. Jamshaid, A.Q. Mohsin and A. Khalid. 2019. Assessment of farmers’ vulnerability to climate change in agroclimatic zones of Pakistan: An index based approach. Sarhad J. Agric. 35(3): 734-740.  https://doi.org/10.17582/journal.sja/2019/35.3.734.740