Ground Cover Supplement : GC Supplement - Farm safety
GROUND COVER FARM SAFETY 13 SAFETY EDUCATION No excuses: you can change old habits TRAINING IS IMPORTANT -- BUT SAFETY STARTS WITH FARMERS THEMSELVES NOT ONE FARM death was recorded in Victoria in 2005, but the manager of the Victorian Farm Safety Centre at the University of Ballarat, Andrew Sullivan, is not about to pat himself on the back. He does believe, however, that the result shows the impact of horrendous accidents in the previous year and the change in farmer attitude towards safety. “We have to be realistic. No matter what we do, something is going to go wrong somewhere and there will be further deaths,” he says. “But at least 2005 will bring down the average. And it means there are 15 people still walking around who would have, in an ordinary year, been killed on a farm.” The approach taken by the centre through its work as educators, consultants and authors of teaching programs and guidelines is to help farmers, families and corporates to help themselves with practical advice, easy-to-follow checklists and an understanding of the pressures they face. “It’s a integrated approach,” Andrew says. “Don’t just look at farm safety as a separate issue, but consider it alongside other aspects of the farm business. Start out simply. Look around your farm with fresh eyes. You may know something is unsafe but you’ve worked in a way that minimises the risk – others don’t. Talk to family members and employees and assess their concerns and give them some responsibility for decreasing risks. You can change old habits. There are no excuses.” Andrew recommends a “think ahead approach”, using harvest as an example. “When you are employing contrac- tors, under Victorian law they are treated as employees while working on your farm. Are they correctly qualified? Do they have a good reputation? Are they insured? What is their machinery like? All questions you need to ask of them. An injury to the header operator could cause more delay to your harvest than a breakdown. “Look at the situation on your property. Are the augers safe? Will there be maps with powerlines marked for them to use? And don’t forget those who might be giving you a hand. A relative or a backpacker might never have used an auger before. Think about it, because when you are under pressure you expose yourself and others to risks.” Andrew recommends good on-farm communications – have regular telephone or radio contact and maintain routine meal times, so absences are noted. “Create good habits which reduce worry. If there are children around, always take the keys out of the ATV or tractor and make sure everyone follows the same procedure. Make sure it is not only a safe environment for your children, but also for older members of the family. They need to be looked after as well.” For more information: Victorian Farm Safety Centre, 03 5334 3512, email@example.com OH&S -- it's time to get serious Graeme Burnham, a farmer, educator and researcher of farm occupational health and safety, believes the solution to making farms safer is simple. Farmers have to start thinking and acting like other businesses when it comes to OH&S. "Farmers are not entitled to any special treatment or circumstances -- the makers of the OH&S laws are not going to change them," he says. "In the eyes of those law-makers, a farm is a workplace just like a factory in Sydney or an oil rig in the middle of the ocean. "It's not difficult to think and act safer on farms. One farmer is killed every three days in Australia and one child under the age of 15 is killed on a farm every 14 days. No other industry includes children in their death and accident figures. "Therefore, they need to get on with it, take the safety of themselves, their families and their workers seriously and remember, the bottom line of farm safety is about being able to grow old together." A partner in MS&A, previously known as Mike Stephens and Associates, Graeme has overseen the agricultural consultancy firm's Safer Farming Systems program for more than seven years and in that time has trained hundreds of farmers in OH&S. Graeme also acts as a safety consultant to corporate and family farming companies wanting to put in place systems which make their farms safer. He also runs a livestock and cropping enterprise outside Ballarat and has seen the other side of the picture, with three inspections of his farm by WorkCover Victoria in the past three years. "Attitudes have improved and I believe if a farmer does an OH&S one-day course they are 75 per cent of the way there, because they are already thinking farm safety," Graeme says. "We can no longer expect to be treated differently just because we are farmers. We are working under OH&S laws of each state and it is about managing risk to our labour units. "The biggest problem with OH&S is what is between the ears. It's all about attitude." Graeme has always pointed out to students that a death or serious injury of a farming family member can have the greatest impact on the success of a farming business. "Suddenly you can lose a core labour unit and the result is there is no one to do the work to make the income in that enterprise. If a farmer is severely injured their farming business may not survive another two years. "The other aspect is, apart from the impact of issues such as divorce, one of the fastest ways to lose your farm is through the high legal costs and fines which can be imposed if you are found liable for a farming death or injury." For more information: Graeme Burnham, 03 5341 6100 Graeme Burnham points out the important elements of an on-farm chemical storage unit on a farm safety walk at a recent Birchip Cropping Group field day.
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