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How will you make your farm safer during National Safe Work Month?

The statistics about injuries and fatalities on Australian farms paint an alarming picture. This month is an important opportunity to think about how you can make your farm safer.

October is National Safe Work Month and this year's theme is “Sharing safety knowledge and experience benefits everyone”.

During October each year Safe Work Australia is asking workers and employers across Australia to commit to building safe and healthy workplaces for all Australians. So what does this mean for agriculture?

In 2015-16 the agriculture industry made up 2.3% of the workforce, but accounted for 23% of worker fatalities. Between 2005-15, an average of 41 workers lost their lives in the agriculture industry each year.

Safe Work Australia: Infographic: Work health and safety in agriculture https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/infographic-work-health-and-safety-agriculture

According to Associate Professor Tony Lower of Sydney University’s Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety in Moree, “for every death on a farm, there are around 15 injuries.”  The most common types of injury are traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries, followed by wounds, lacerations, amputations and internal organ damage, and fractures. The most common causes of injury are body stressing, being hit by moving objects and falls, trips and slips with animals being involved in around 20% of serious injuries.

Australian Farm Deaths & Injuries Media Monitors Snapshot January 1 – June 30, 2017, The University of Sydney

Agriculture: a snapshot

Agriculture has the highest proportion of self-employed workers (46%) of any industry, employing a higher proportion of older workers than any other industry (16% are aged 65 and over).

There are many hazards on farms that are less common in other workplaces, such as:

  • augers, tractors, motorbikes and quad bikes
  • chemicals—pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers
  • animals
  • extreme weather conditions.

Farm workers often work alone:

  • lifting heavy loads or operating machinery by themselves
  • have fewer opportunities for sharing practices, observing and learning from others
  • help or first aid isn’t always nearby if an incident occurs
  • farms may be remote, without mobile phone coverage.

How to stay safe

Some of the best ways to protect workers include:

  • Eliminate hazards – things that can kill or hurt workers. If that’s not possible, the risks must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable.
  • Choose the safest equipment for your farm’s needs and maintain it.
  • Choose the safest chemicals and closely follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Ensure all workers and visitors know about the risks on the farm and how to manage them.
  • Ensure workers have the skills to work safely, for example when handling animals and using farm equipment.
  • Closely supervise new and inexperienced workers.

There are numerous resources available to assist farmers and those working in agriculture to stay safe in their day to day working lives. See below for more information.

Take part in National Safe Work Month

There are numerous resources here to help you get involved in this initiative. You may like to take part in an event in your region or you may even like to enter your farm safety initiative in the Workplace Reward competition for your chance to win $5000.  Share your National Safe Work Month initiative on social using #safeworkmonth

Agriculture industry infographic, Safe Work Australia, https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/national-safe-work-month/infographics-industry

So with only four days to go before the start of National Safe Work Month, take the time to think about whether your work environment is as safe as it can be.

Additional Resources

Farmsafe Australia - The Farmsafe Australia network is interested in protecting the health and safety of farmers, workers, family members and visitors to farms.

Safe Work Australia - an Australian government statutory body established in 2008 to develop national policy relating to WHS and workers’ compensation.

QuadWatch - Australian Government initiative to bring together industry, manufacturers, quad bike users, community organisations, and government to raise awareness of quad bike safety.

Serious about farm safety - developed by Workplace Health and Safety Queensland and agricultural industry representatives to assist small to medium sized agricultural businesses to develop a management system for health and safety risks around the farm and other agricultural workplaces.

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