The Garry Nichols story

Host: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
Written by Fiona O’Sullivan, Manager, Agriculture Unit, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

Queensland is a big state, and thankfully my role includes plenty of travel which gives me the opportunity to see a variety of country, blue skies, and beautiful sunsets. I’m making my job sound glamorous, but to tell the truth, there are also plenty of meetings, long days sitting in airports, and many nights in different motel rooms. By far the best part of the job is talking to people about workplace safety, especially those who don’t want a bar of it! Why you ask? Because I do like a challenge.

It also means I’ve had plenty of time to think about one really shocking statistic coming out of the agriculture industry. Every time I mull over it, I shake my head in disbelief. It’s a stat I can’t shake nor fathom – only three per cent of Queenslanders work on farms yet almost thirty per cent of workplace deaths happen on them.

Around 13 Queensland agriculture workers die each year as a result of a workplace incident, with another 1700 injured. Seriously, that equates to nearly 33 injuries a week or close to five per day! And that’s only the ones we know of!

I first met Gary Nichols from North Queensland when we were filming a story about an incident on his property. Between a rock and a hard place – the Garry Nichols story is a film based on Garry, who is now one of our Safety Advocates. Put simply, his life changed forever after a tractor rollover in which he lost a leg.

Incidents like Garry’s, and the incident rates in agriculture, are why my team and I, along with other members at Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, are working hard to reduce the over-representation of worker deaths and injuries among those who are living off the land.

Our awareness campaign targets agricultural employers and workers urging them to take a few extra seconds to stop and think about the risks to hopefully prevent another tragic death or serious injury. As part of the campaign, we used Queensland Safety Ambassador Shane Webcke to drive home the message in a radio ad.

Shane is passionate about safety, and that’s why he’s our ambassador. The former Bronco is proud of his family’s farming background, which he now does himself. Webby has done a series of safety films based on the agricultural sector, including one on barriers and attitudes with Sharon Howard from AgForce.

Webby has also discussed effective stockyard design with Bryon Wolff from Thompson Longhorn and cattle handling with Ross Stricklin from Stanbroke Pastoral Company.

Our guide for a health and safety management system for smaller sized agribusinesses, Serious about farm safety, is also available to download from WHSQ’s agriculture safety page, which contains valuable safety information.

The bottom line is when a worker in the agriculture industry heads off to earn a hard day’s pay, we want them to take a moment to stop and think about doing their job safely, because those few seconds could save their life – and their family’s livelihood. Farm deaths are preventable.

For further safety advice, visit the WHSQ website or call 1300 362 128.

Garry Nichols became a safety ambassador for the Queensland Government after losing a leg in tractor rollover.