The Importance of Farm Safety
Farms are considered to be some of the most dangerous workplaces in Australia, but they don’t have to be. Whether you run a large outback station or a small plot near the city, good farm safety management is needed to avoid injuries and protect farm workers. Most farm-related accidents are preventable by following proper safety procedures.
Let’s look at why farm safety is important and how to manage these high-risk workplaces. We’ll review common hazards and risks, and list some great tips to make your farm safer. Once adopted, this valuable advice can help to improve farmer health and safety outcomes for every farm worker on your site.
Why Farm Safety is Important
Accidents occur way too often, and due to the nature of the work, sometimes the results are fatal. Dedicated farm safety practices are needed to prevent injuries and fatalities across the sector. While there will always be accidents, setting and following safety protocols can have a positive impact on farmer health.
Based on average national figures published by WorkSafe Victoria, 79 farmers were killed on a farm each year over the last 20 years. Around two-thirds of these cases were work-related, with the two major causes of injury being farm vehicles and farm machinery. Workers aged over 55 years represented more than half of all work-related incidents.
In 2021 alone, there were 46 fatalities and 128 non-fatal injuries recorded on farms. With work-related fatalities measured at 10.4 deaths per 100,000 workers, farming has eight times the fatality rate of other professions. The most common cause of fatality was farm vehicles, including tractors, quad bikes, and side by sides. The most common causes of injury were from a quad bike, tractor, and horse. Males were overrepresented with 87% of all fatalities, and 13% were children aged under 15 years.
There are many reasons for these unwanted statistics, and it’s important to address them all. For example, farm safety is compromised by heavy reliance on vehicles, access to large machinery, and exposure to diverse and challenging working environments. It’s also compounded by reduced access to medical services in remote areas, solo working practices, and the ageing farm workforce. These numbers are likely to be even higher in reality, with hospital presentations from farm injuries often underreported or not reported at all.
Hazard Identification and Risk Management
In order to improve farming safety, it’s essential to identify hazards on a farm. Farming is somewhat unique as a profession, with many people living and working in the same environment. This can lead to a higher risk of injuries and fatalities, with farmers often becoming accustomed to hazards and accepting risk as part of everyday life. To stop this dangerous attitude, it’s important to adopt comprehensive workplace safety standards.
Common farm hazards include tractors and quad bikes, sorting and packing equipment, livestock yards and fences, and fertilisers and chemicals. Whether you’re involved with cattle, dairy, or mixed crops, it’s important to manage your site properly. Using tarpaulins and other safety equipment to cover hazards and limit exposure is one effective way to improve safety outcomes.
Practical risk management involves a combination of elimination, substitution, and control. Along with removing and covering hazards, many risks can be managed effectively by following the Hierarchy of Controls. Created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, this management system determines which actions are needed to control and limit dangerous exposure.
The Hierarchy of Controls Includes Five Essential Actions:
- Elimination – removing old or unused vehicles and machinery from the working environment
- Substitution – swapping large and cumbersome equipment for smaller units to reduce heavy loads
- Engineering – reconfiguring farm systems to minimise animal interactions and improve control
- Administration – limiting working hours and ensuring regular breaks to minimise fatigue
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) – using safety equipment correctly to avoid exposure to contaminants and noise
Mental Health in the Agricultural Industry
The mental health of farm workers is an important yet often overlooked aspect of the agricultural industry. Farming is a demanding profession characterised by long hours, physically strenuous tasks, and exposure to various environmental challenges. The isolation that comes with rural living can further compound the stressors faced by farm workers.
Constantly battling weather uncertainties, financial pressures, and fluctuating markets can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness. Moreover, access to rural health resources can be limited, exacerbating the issue.
Addressing the mental well-being of farm workers is essential, as it not only impacts their personal lives but also influences their job performance and safety. Creating awareness, offering mental health support, and fostering a supportive community can help alleviate the burden and promote resilience among farm workers, ensuring their overall well-being in this vital profession.
Tips to Improve Farm Safety
If you want to ensure safe farming, it’s important to set up sustainable working practices. Identifying potential hazards is not enough in isolation; practical measures are also needed to limit exposure. From training and education programs to system design, machinery maintenance, and storage, the following tips are a great place to start:
- Carry out a farm risk assessment based on state and national guidelines.
- Create an induction kit for workers based on these guidelines.
- Create detailed and specific instructions for all work tasks.
- Ensure proper training procedures for all workplace machines and equipment.
- Make sure all machinery, equipment, and infrastructure is maintained regularly.
- Simplify and segment farm systems to reduce complexity and confusion.
- Create safe break areas for workers, and safe play areas for children.
- Make sure everyone has easy access to recommended PPE.
- Invest in tarpaulins and other safety equipment to help manage risks.
- Develop a farm safety culture in all areas of your business.
- Don’t ignore mental health.
Introducing Bee Jays Canvas Co
At Bee Jays Canvas Co, we supply high-quality tarpaulins and covers to farms across Australia. Based in Perth, WA, we support farmers across the country with custom tarps for various applications. We manufacture tarps of all shapes and sizes, from standard truck and farm tarps to large and complex coverings. Along with agriculture, we have a long history working with the transport, mining, industrial, and oil and gas industries.
We have a wide range of truck tarps available, including side curtains, roll tarps, bulkhead partitions, and pull out tarps. We also have quality tarps for other applications, including mining and industrial tarps, oil and gas tarps, hay tarps, dome covers, and much more.
If you need a durable tarpaulin to cover your gear, protect your load or assets, we’re sure to have what you need. Please don’t hesitate to contact our team to learn more.