A practical approach can make the farm a safer place

A farm can be a dangerous place for farmers, their families, workers and even visitors. John Temperley, Executive Officer of Farmsafe Australia, discusses some of the most common hazards and shares practical steps for making farms safer for everyone.

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Farming is one of the more dangerous occupations in Australia. Twenty five percent of all work-related deaths occur on farms yet farms account for just 10 percent of workplaces.

“Things are getting better”, says John Temperley, Executive Officer of Farmsafe Australia. “For example, fatalities have fallen from an average of 150 a year between 1989 and 1992 to fewer than 60 last year. But we still have a long way to go.”

Farmers are keen to do all they can to promote safety procedures, though some aren’t sure where to start. Farmsafe Australia is committed to helping them over this hurdle by developing resources and promoting strategies that are both practical and easy to apply.

“One of our most successful programs was promoting tractor safety,” says Temperley. “We had evidence that farmers were dying from tractor rollovers so we asked state governments to subsidise the retro fitment of rollover protection structures (ROPS) on older tractors that didn’t have cabins. Since the program was introduced, the number of deaths from tractor rollovers has fallen from a peak of 35 to seven last year.”

Another major concern was the number of young children who were drowning or being run over by farm vehicles or machinery. “We now recommend that all farmers create a safe play area for children,” says Temperley. “This way, if the supervising adults are distracted, the toddlers can’t wander into danger. 20 percent of farm deaths are children, some of them toddlers and young children.”

At the other end of the spectrum, farmers over the age of 55 are four times more likely to be injured than younger adults. “As we age we become less agile, our eyesight and hearing might fail and we’re more likely to make mistakes,” says Temperley. “This is something older farmers need to make allowances for. Also, as many older farmers retire from, say, mixed farming or a grain business to a smaller block with cattle, there’s an increase in livestock-related injuries in this age group.”

A continuing concern is the number of deaths and injuries caused by quad bikes. “Since 1989, we’ve seen an increase in the average number of fatalities a year from one to 19, mostly as a result of rollovers,” says Temperley. “We recommend that farmers fit a crush protection device on all of their quad bikes and that riders always wear a helmet. As children account for 20 percent of the deaths, we also strongly advise that no-one under the age of 16 is allowed to ride a quad bike of any size, even those designed for children.”

5 practical steps to a safer farm

  1. Have a safety plan in place that identifies potential hazards and take specific actions to fix them.
  2. Always be on the look‐out for new hazards and remove them as quickly as possible.
  3. Set clear safety procedures for risky work.
  4. Make sure everyone that works on the farm understands and uses your safety procedures.
  5. Have an emergency plan in place in case of any incidents.

To find out more about farm safety and to access free resources to help you get started with a farm safety program visit farmsafe.org.au