Take five for farm safety week - Elders Rural Services

Take five for farm safety week

It’s National Farm Safety week,  so it’s the perfect time to reflect on ways to improve the safety of everyone on your farm.

Farmsafe Australia’s theme this year is safety for the life of the farmer – from children right through to older workers – including physical and mental health issues.

So this week is the ideal opportunity to take time out and talk with family and farm workers about safety issues, to ask about any areas of concern or potential hazards, and work out what can be done to reduce or eliminate risks.

Jamie Hoffman, head of safety for Elders, says having this discussion is an important first step.

“Take time to identify hazards or areas of concern. This can be a simple walk around the farm and looking at what has the potential to harm you, or looking at something unique on your property and then proactively work to implement adequate controls to work safely,” he said.

“At Elders, we believe that there is nothing so important that it cannot be done safely and we encourage our customers to take a safe approach to all their farm operations as well.”

To kick off the discussions this Farm Safety Week, here are five major hazards commonly faced and how you can start to mitigate them.

Driving quad bikes

This is one of the most highly publicised hazards, but despite the high levels of awareness, quad bike accidents continue to be one of the most common causes of injury and fatality on farms. Did you know that on average there are 10 quad bike related deaths on farm each year?

The danger of these vehicles is usually in the way they are operated. For improved safety:

  • drivers should get to know the vehicle and know the vehicle’s limits
  • be trained by recognised training providers
  • learn the risks and consider the consequences of your decisions.

Adding rollover protection reduces the risk of serious injury. If possible consider swapping out your quad bike for a safer mode of transport such as a side by side vehicle.

Other resources to help you review your use of quad bikes or farm vehicles can be found in the Farmsafe Australia toolbox Toolbox Talks.

Handling and storing chemicals

Care should be taken when working with chemicals and hazardous substances, as exposure can result in serious health issues, ranging from skin issues (burns) and poisoning to chronic or long-lasting effects.

Chemical containers should have a label and safety data sheet and products used according to directions, while you are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment. Make sure that everyone who is using chemicals is fit for work and understands how to do the job.

Also consider how you store chemicals and ensure they are not accessible to children. During Farm Safety week why not clear out any old or unused chemicals and dispose of them safely with the ChemClear program.

Handling livestock

It is important to have a healthy respect for cattle or other livestock and the damage they can do by charging, kicking or crushing. New workers should receive training before mustering in yards or checking calves.

When working with cattle, be mindful of your position in relation to gates and fences to avoid being crushed and have an escape route planned.

There is a wealth of information available about improving personal safety when working with stock. Take a look at the Cattle Handling Safety guide available through the Farmsafe Australia website.

Preparing for emergencies

Being prepared for fire, floods, wind or storm damage is another way to improve safety on farm.

Do you have an emergency response plan? Does everyone agree on what will happen in the event of an emergency? How will you communicate, stay safe and protect each other?

Considering these questions now and preparing your response is essential to ensure everyone’s safety during a time of crisis.

Working outdoors

Protecting yourself from the sun, especially during peak UV times, is vital for preventing skin cancer. According to the National Centre for Farmer Health, Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world and farmers have a 60 per cent higher death rate from melanoma compared with the general population.

Use long-sleeve shirts or trousers to cover up, a broad brimmed hat, SPF 50+ sunscreen and sunglasses. Offer sunscreen to workers in amenity areas or work vehicles and lead by example.

If you haven’t had a skin check lately, consider booking in to see your GP or skin specialist.

Elders offers a range of personal protection items available at your local store.