Farm Safety Week, which runs from July 18-24, aims to address issues on Australian farms that will reduce workplace injury and fatalities—particularly as farmers work to overcome the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Themed “Recipe for Averting Disaster,” Farmsafe Australia will focus on the intangible risks and hazards that make Australian farms “one of the most dangerous work environments,” according to Farmsafe Australia.
Such risks and hazards include fatigue, complacency, the blurred line between the home and work environment, labour shortages and the ageing workforce, and wellbeing, among others.
Among the 46 farm workplace deaths in 2021, 87 percent were male, and 58.7 percent were over 45 years of age.
The report found that Queensland had the highest rate of farm incidents, with 19 fatalities and 86 injuries. This was followed by New South Wales at 10 fatalities and 23 injuries, and Victoria at six fatalities and 13 injuries.
This follows an inquiry in June by Western Australia’s WorkSafe Commission into the state’s agriculture sector following WA’s 12th work-related death in just 12 months.
Felicity Richards, Chairperson of Farmsafe Australia, said in a statement that the data shows that it’s not necessarily young, inexperienced farmers who are involved in these incidents.
“Experienced farmers are just as susceptible to death and injury, especially when dealing with intangible factors such as fatigue, complacency or mental health,” she said.
Richards said she also believes that more farms need to regularly implement safety workshops and “toolbox talks” to ensure that any hazards and risks can be minimised.
David is a third generation farmer on his property on the Wimmera plains and prioritises having regular safety conversations to keep everyone on the farm productive, efficient and safe. Learn more #NationalFarmSafetyWeek at: https://t.co/HQigoVB7IM #recipeforavertingdisaster pic.twitter.com/3JyM8Fwnqb
— Farmsafe Australia (@FarmsafeAust) July 20, 2022
“Farmers need to put the safety of themselves and their employees as the core to their business. We need to ensure that people feel comfortable to have open conversations and raise safety concerns if they arise. By conducting weekly or bi-weekly safety meetings, you can ensure that all machinery and operations are running effectively, and that there are no hazards that a worker has identified,” she said.
“Every farmer understands the unique risks that come with working on their own farm. Taking one extra moment to weigh up factors such as fatigue, mental health or complacency is a first step towards creating a safer environment.”
Wellbeing of Farmers
David Jochinke, former Vice President of National Farmers Federation, said farmers should be empowered to discuss mental health to ensure that stigma is eliminated in farming communities.
A third-generation farmer from the Wimmera, Jochinke knows firsthand the consequences immense daily fatigue, loneliness and mental strain can have on farmers.
“One of my earliest memories on the farm was seeing my uncle in a farming vehicle accident. The images of him haunt me, but the memory has been fundamental in my approach to safety,” Jochinke said.
“As farmers we have a responsibility to protect anyone who comes onto our farm. But we also need to go one step further and provide that essential social support our local farming community. Addressing mental illness collectively is one of the best ways we can improve farm safety across Australia.”
While farmers make up 2.2 percent of Australia’s workforce but 13 percent of injuries at work, Jochinke said he wanted to remind farmers of the importance of taking care of themselves and others.
“Educating our community and local farmers on the importance of both physical and mental safety empowers them to take the necessary steps to protect themselves against all types of injury.”
Federal Department Prioritises Farm Safety
Head of Agriculture and Food Policy and Research at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Rosemary Deininger said in a statement, that ensuring the safety of farmers was a priority for the department, and Farm Safety Week was an opportunity to continue this conversation.
“We want to ensure that farm-safe behaviours are instilled into current farmers and the next generation of farmers to further reduce the risk of injuries and accidents.
“Improvements in farm safety will be key to building a stronger and more profitable agriculture industry as we work to grow the sector to $100 billion by 2030.”
More resources can be found at farmsafe.org.au