Rayner Reckons

Jul 26

Whats your attitude towards farm safety

Posted on Friday, July 26, 2019

In Australia, Farm Safety week is generally held in the third week of July. The week is an opportunity to focus on the issues surrounding farm safety and ways to reduce the risk to farm staff, farm families and visitors to farms.  


Personally I don’t think a week is long enough!  Farm safety should be the priority for all us every day!  The statistics around farming accidents are quite frightening.  The National Centre for Farmer Health highlighted some of the statistics:


“In 2017, the rate of work-related injury fatalities for agriculture was 16.5 deaths per 100,000 workers. Agriculture continues to be the highest risk occupational group—with over 10 times the rate of fatality when compared to the general employed population. 27% of all work-related deaths occurred in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries”


“Workers over the age of 55 years account for over half (55%) of all fatalities, with two-thirds of all deaths occurring in sheep, beef cattle and grain farming. Children under the age of 15 years are also a high-risk group, particularly when playing or helping out with farm jobs.”


The concerning issue is that in the past 10 years or so, the level of injury and deaths on farms haven’t really changed.  So I reckon we really need to do more to reduce those risks.


So why is farming so dangerous?  I think there are many reasons.  The combination of issues associated with working with machinery and large, fast unpredictable livestock can be a risk.  I also think that when you combine stress, fatigue, weather and exposure you increase the risks.  Lastly I think there is a real risk called “attitude”.


For some reason there is an attitude towards farm safety that sees trying to be safe as being “soft”.  This week I’ve been sharing posts on Facebook about Farm Safety.  The response to these posts has been interesting.  


For instance, did you know that horses and cattle are the most deadly animals in Australia?  In the years between 2008 and 2017, horses or cattle killed 77 people. In addition the number of serous injuries was significant.  I know several people who have suffered significant injuries working with cattle.  In response to that post, I received comments such as:


“We don’t all push pencils you know. Leave the bush to the bush let us do what we got to do.”


“If it is the life style you like you will not be worried about the knocks and bruising. If you do not like the chance of being hurt find another job.”


I find this interesting.  A little research shows many of these comments come from young males.  There is a level of friction there that sees thinking about safety as being something that will stop them enjoying their job or their career.  


But will it really?  Being safe in your job is something we all have to consider. It is the law, and we have a duty to ourselves and others to look out and manage safety at work.  

Doing your job and thinking safely doesn’t mean that everything has to change. Some things are always going to be inherently dangerous.  But there are ways to make the job safer.  


I use a risk matrix for many of my jobs now.  I’ve been using this largely in response to my roles as a leader and manager of other people.  When I was a fireman the most important consideration was that none of my crew would be injured or worse.  And its no different with my clients or co-workers.  I want to look out for them.  


The matrix looks at what is the risk of an event occurring (its likelihood) and the consequences of the event happening. Now just because an event or a job is considered high risk, doesn’t mean it cant be done.  What it mean is you have to think about ways to reduce the risk. 


Can you reduce the risk by changing the way you do things?  Can you reduce the risk by a mechanical means – e.g replacing a head bale on a crush; a guard around a silo ladder; or can you remove the risk. Would some training help?  Simple changes could be the difference between an event being high risk or medium risk.


Not long ago I saw this statement


“One reason people resist change is because they focus on what they have to give up instead of what they have to gain”


I think this pretty well sums up lots of responses to farm safety.  Making a change to be safe doesn’t mean losing your ability to enjoy being on a horse, driving a tractor or doing any of the other tasks we do in agriculture.  But if you can take a few moments to assess the risk, think if there is a safer way and work to that, you will be that one step closer to coming home safe every day.


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