Each of us have a role in farm safety

Each of us have a role in farm safety


Opinion
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Next week is Farm Safety Week. All weeks on farm should be considered Farm Safety Week, but next week plays an important role in elevating this issue so we can continually review and improve our practices. Farms are not just workplaces; they are also homes, so their safe operation is vitally important across both fronts.

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Farm Safe Australia has pointed out that on-farm death and injury is a large problem in Australia. We are improving outcomes, with a significant reduction in on-farm injury related deaths during the past 20 years, however, the farm sector remains over-represented in this area. There were 63 deaths on-farm in 2016. Injuries can also often be overlooked as part of the statistical pool, but injuries can have long term impacts on individuals and families.

A Macquarie University study recently found, unsurprisingly, that rural residents had an “increased likelihood of being hospitalised for an injury relating to motorcycle, motor vehicle and heavy vehicle crashes; other land transport incidents; being injured by animate mechanical forces; threats to breathing; electric current, radiation, extreme ambient air temperature and pressure; smoke, fire and flames; venomous animals and plants; forces of nature, intentional self-harm; and assault, when compared to urban residents”.

Country Women's Association of NSW president, Annette Turner, encourages farmers and their families to think about farm safety.

Country Women's Association of NSW president, Annette Turner, encourages farmers and their families to think about farm safety.

We can all be pro-active in this space and make the conversation about farm safety an ongoing one.

Farm safety matters are never fully resolved. Risks need to be constantly assessed and improvements made. This is not to say the farm safety obligation has to be an onerous one. Creating a culture on-farm, both from a work and lifestyle perspective, that strives to improve safety for everybody is the key.

Next week, during Farm Safety Week, the CWA, and others, will be prompting those on farm to make sure they have had the conversation about farm safety from an overall perspective, as well as thinking about a few specific areas for improvement.

One of those areas is in relation to training and appropriate skills. Do users of farm machinery and vehicles on your property have the necessary training (and on-going training) to ensure they have the right skills to undertake the task at hand? This question is often overlooked when it comes to family visitors on farm. Likewise, using the right equipment is equally as important, as is using the right personal protective equipment. 

It is also vitally important that people are honest with themselves about how alert and able they are to perform the task at hand. In this day and age of rushing to get more and more things done, it is easy to overlook the signs of fatigue. 

I urge the farming community to think about all these issues. Farm safety is everybody’s responsibility and our culture needs to ensure that topic is always part of the conversation.

  • Annette Turner is the CWA of NSW president.
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