At first glance life down on the farm may seem like a recipe for good health and a long life with all that fresh air, open space and an active lifestyle. But appearances can be deceptive, because Australia's farms are dangerous places.
In fact, farming is the second worst industry for workplace death and injury with an average of three people dying on Australia's farms every week.
Farmsafe WA, a not for profit organization founded by farmers for farmers, has been trying to improve that alarming situation since 1994 with a number of practical hands on courses and demonstrations designed to raise awareness of the dangers and to encourage farmers to prevent accident and injury Sheila Payne, Executive Officer of Farmsafe WA Alliance, says the biggest issue in farm safety is machinery and roll overs.
POWER TAKE OFFS
Power Take offs on the back of tractors, for example, can cause devastating injuries to the unwary as former champion footballer Barry Cable can testify. Vehicles of all descriptions utilities, tractors and four wheel bikes are prone to roll overs on farms, causing death and injury.
Falls are another danger, not just from the obvious places, like silos, but from four wheel bikes and even just tripping over obstacles.
The dangers are not just limited to the farm, they extend to the surrounding roads. A remarkably high number of farmers are killed or injured on country roads.
While country people like to think it's mainly city tourists who are dying on country roads, it is a delusion according to Ms Payne.
The big issues are fatigue, speeding, drink driving and failing to wear seat belts.
She thinks it stems from the habit of not belting up on the farm, where seat belts are often seen as a nuisance. Farms are unique work environments that blur the boundaries between home and workplace to pose particular risks for children.
One child dies on an Australian farm every two weeks with drowning, vehicle accidents, machinery, two and four wheel motorbikes, horses and other animals all posing dangers. " Drowing doesn't necessarily mean dams, it can be rainwater tanks or troughs, " Ms. Payne said
She added that simple measures like removing ladders from rainwater tanks could prevent children from climbing them, falling in and drowning.
Farmsafe WA encourages parents to set aside a safe play area on the property away from hazards for children. The danger on farms lie not just in an inherently dangerous working environment but in a "she'll be right" attitude to hazards.
"Farmers need to realize that safety isn't as costly as they think it is and safety management can be incorporated into other management systems" Ms Payne said
Farmers will often take risks they wouldn't let their workers take, not realizing that injuring themselves will have an impact on them, their business and their family.
Farmsafe WA runs a number of programs to address the problem.
One popular project is our Managing Farm Safety Course which has been developed by the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety and Farmsafe Australia.
The objectives of the training program are to assist farm owner/managers to increase productivity through the development of skills in managing risks if injury and illness associated with life and work on farms.
The Managing Farm Safety Course:
• A combination of theory and practical activities
• Can be conducted on farm
• Is suitable for both women and men
• Provides participants with accredited training in farm health and safety management
• Participants are provided with a resource for on-farm use
It's better to deal with safety issues before they become a problem- a planned approach to safety is essential for your business.
Another recent initiative is workshops for farmers over the age of 55 where fellow farmers of the same age discuss farm safety ways of doing things.
‘It's older farmers telling older farmers how it is and how to get around some of the issues they have. It doesn't matter whether it's forgetfulness, bad eyesight, or not being able to do things like they used to" Ms Payne said.
While they might like to think they have learnt a thing or two, and that makes them safer than the young blokes, the statistics say otherwise, with a death rate of 5.2/1000 for farmers over 55 compared to an average of 1.6/1000 for those under that age.
Farmsafe WA also run Emergency Care in the Bush workshops that prepare farmers should the worse happen, as well as child safety workshops.
Women are particularly a good audience when it comes to child safety Child safety workshops on DVD are particularly popular and have travelled as far as the Eastern States and New Zealand.
For further information on our workshops and any safety issues as mentioned above, please contact Farmsafe WA Alliance on (08) 9359 4118 or visit www.farmsafewa.org