The past two months have highlighted the need for more attention on farm safety, both as a work place and a place where we live.
To name a few incidents that made the news are Casey Barnes’ shearing shed accident at Gilgandra in which she was scalped, the stock agent from Georges Creek near Tallangatta, Victoria, who was trampled and the child near Stanthorpe, Queensland, who accidentally shot his five-year-old cousin.
These incidents, while not all in NSW, come on the back of a paper by The Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety published in Public Health Research and Practice, and covered by The Land in early December last year, “Farm fatality rate same for 15 years” (theland.com.au December 7), which looked at the 367 fatalities on NSW farms from 2001 to 2015, and determined some new approaches were required due the the stagnation in farm safety statistics.
The report also highlighted that, for the same period, more people working in agriculture died than in construction and mining combined.
This raises questions about the level of awareness of safety on farms generally (some farms are very good in this regard, but they’re clearly not the norm), the amount of resources, including time, that farm business owners are able to put into farm safety, as well as the business owner’s awareness of their responsibilities, who is liable and what they are liable for if an accident were to occur.
It also raises questions on the employee side of things about how aware individuals may or may not be of risks in their workplace and their entitlements.
The most damning fact was the agriculture work related fatality rate was 12 times higher than the 2014 rate across all industries in NSW.
At a time when agriculture needs more talent entering the sector with the aim of developing a career, these sorts of facts don’t do much to bolster its image.
As a rule of thumb, farmers aren’t exactly known for their regular safety audits, they don’t generally have the capacity to employ health and safety staff and how many farms do you visit where you get a safety induction to the workplace, as happens in many other work sites?
Unlike many other work sites, our friends and family also visit and live in this space. Some new ideas, and extra support for farmers, are clearly needed.