Did you know that this week is National Farm Safety Week? The week (16-22 July 2018) runs annually and aims to raise awareness of farm safety issues, including the prevalence of accidents, injuries and fatalities, and what can be done to reduce these.
Promoting safety across Australia’s farms and farm workers
Over time there has been a significant reduction of on-farm fatalities, with 68 deaths in 2017, down from an average of 146 fatalities per year, between 1989 and 1992. However, a 2017 Farm Safety Report Card published by Sydney University revealed that farm fatalities increased by 8% in 2017 (in comparison to 2016), which only reinforces the importance of this week and associated year-round initiatives.
One of the predominate factors in these fatalities is farm machinery, including tractors and quad bikes, which are a factor in 40% of all farm fatalities. Tragically, these fatalities are not limited to workers on these farms, and in 2017 13% of farm fatalities involved children under 15, with quad bikes involved in a third of these incidents.
However, accidents do not always result in fatalities, with 179 non-fatal incidents occurring on farms across Australia last year, which was tragically up a dramatic 24% on the 144 of 2016. Again, quad bikes were a major factor here, involved in almost a quarter of accidents. Children unfortunately also made up 22 of the 179 incidents.
In terms of our state, 87 non-fatal incidents and 17 fatalities occurred in Queensland. These figures are even more alarming when considered in light of the total 118 work-related fatalities that occurred in Australia from January to November 2021 (the most recent accessible data), when the total of farm related fatalities was 20 Australia-wide.
This is reinforced with continued reports from Safe Work Australia which show that Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing accounted for 24% of worker fatalities in 2016, a notable amount given the 19 sectors the reporting is broken down into.
So, how can we reduce these accidents and fatalities?
When it comes to staying safe on farms, there’s a number of areas where workers and employers can look to improve safety standards and reduce risks. Farms are complex work environments, with a range of machinery, animals, transportation and tasks happening or interacting at any one time.
These tips only touch on some of the ways to improve farm safety, and should be considered alongside personal knowledge and with respect to the type of farming being performed.
In saying that, here are a number of tips to get you started on increasing safety and reducing on-farm risks:
Farm buildings & grounds
- Ensure regular safety checks of the buildings and grounds for fire hazards, hazardous materials and other safety concerns or potential risks.
- Keep all chemicals and other dangerous or poisonous items secured away where children and animals can’t get to them. You should also keep a list of the chemicals stored on your property for firefighters, in the event a fire should threaten the property.
- Maintain roads and trim all weeds and grasses where you may be using quad bikes or similar, so that hidden obstacles don’t cause accidents or rollovers.
- Keep all work areas clean and tidy, with tools and machinery stored away safely.
- Establish a safety boundary around flammable substances, such as gas and fuel tanks.
Personal safety on the farm
- Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing around equipment, machinery or work areas – this could be caught and cause an accident or injury.
- Always use equipment as intended, and wear all relevant PPE, including gloves, hearing protection and face masks or respirators when needed.
- Ensure you have a helper nearby when entering grain bins, breeding pens or other high risk areas.
- Where children are on the farm, ensure you share safety concerns, explaining the possible risks and the safety approaches that they (and you) should always take. Practicing what you preach is important!
Tractors, equipment and transportation
- Ensure tractors have roll-over structures in place, and always buckle your seatbelt!
- Use tractors and other transport vehicles, such as quad bikes, safely – don’t allow riders on fenders, hitches, attachments etc.
- Make sure you always have good ventilation when running gas or diesel engines.
- Always keep fire extinguishers and first aid kits handy and on all tractors and trucks.
- Never leave equipment, machinery or vehicles running unattended.
- Check and maintain all equipment, especially hydraulic hoses and electrical cables.
- Practice safety when operating quad bikes, as these are a major factor in a large number of farm accidents and fatalities.
- Keep animals in good health, and be aware of those who are in pain or experiencing discomfort as they can react aggressively.
- Treat animals with respect and learn to read their behaviour.
- Take extra care with animals at breeding and birthing, as their behaviour can be different, and at times, defensive.
These are just a few areas to pay attention to when looking to ensure a safe and productive farm and working environment. It’s important to assess the risks that may be unique to your working environment and identify where additional caution may need to be taken. The statistics show just how many accidents and fatalities are caused by farm machinery and transportation, including quad bikes – which should be a focus for any safe farm.
Should the worst happen at work, on-farm or otherwise, our team can help. You can find out more information about workers compensation claims here.