Farm Safety Week 2018: innovative, safe and healthy
As Farm Safety Week gets into gear in Australia this week, GrainGrowers encourages all farmers to take some time to stop and think about the importance of safety on farm and what they can do to mitigate the risks. While there has been a decline in on-farm injury-related deaths in the past 20 years, unfortunately 68 people died from farm accidents on Australian farms in 2017* – and that’s 68 too many.
Quad bikes, vehicles and farm machinery (grain augers and PTO shafts) are listed as the main causes of death and serious injury – and since these are ubiquitous on grain farms, there is no room for complacency.
Fortunately, there is a range of new safety technologies and practices which can help mitigate safety risks. Good training and record keeping are also fundamental to ensuring the safety of every farmer and their workers. In the same way that crops and stock can be carefully planned and managed to achieve good production, safety, too, can be planned and managed to reduce incidents and the effect they have on farm businesses.
GrainGrowers’ National Policy Group Member Paul Kelly from Mingenew, WA, talks about how he manages safety in his business.
Mr Kelly and his wife, Sue, grow wheat, lupins, canola, coriander, field peas, and a variety of pasture seed and experimental crops on their 3106 ha farm. During harvesting and seeding the farm employs a variety of casual workers as machinery operators. In addition, the farm employs one full time employee from the local area, andfamily members come home to work when they can.
The farm has a good reputation and regularly attracts seasonal workers back the following year.
Why are you passionate about farm safety on your farm?
“People are vitally important to our business and so we want to ensure the safety of our workplace,” said Paul.
“It is also a fact of business that we must protect ourselves from litigation. If, as farmers, we don`t get on the front foot and put safety as our highest priority we can be assured that government and/or regulatory bodies will intervene.”
How do you ensure farm safety on your farm?
“Workplace Health and Safety is always the first line item in our discussions with employees. We try to assess the safety risk for everything we do.”
What are your processes?
“We are a Quality Assured farm and have had a Work Safe Audit completed,” said Paul.
“We conduct formal Safety Induction with new and returning employees. In addition, we provide training on every machine before operating. Everyone must wear high visibility clothing and good work boots. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), including ear plugs, safety glasses, face masks, gloves and fire-retardant overalls, is provided.”
How do you manage casual labour who are not likely to remain long on your farm but must still be inducted as if they were?
“With patience!” said Paul.
“All new employees require a lengthy induction process, as for many, English is their second language and they may never have worked on farms before. We ensure they are competent before allowing them to operate our machinery.”
Do you have written policies in place on the farm about safety? How do you make sure they are read, rather than left on the shelf?
“Yes, we do – the induction sheets are worked through by the new employee in our presence and both parties sign. We also have a training register for each machine which again has to be signed when we assess each employee as competent on a particular machine.
“We endeavour to assess the risk on each job and discuss it with the employee.”
How do you ensure good record-keeping on your farm?
“There are diaries in each machine where all daily activities must be entered. This is given the same priority as using ProductionWise from GrainGrowers to record all paddock activities for our crops.”
What do you think is the greatest safety risk on a grains farm? How do you deal with it?
“Without a doubt, four-wheeled motor bikes are the biggest risk. On our farm, the four-wheeled motor bike is equipped with a roll-bar, and operators must be trained, wear a helmet, carry water and a phone and have a two-way radio,” said Paul.
“Fatigue can also be a high risk. We are strict with limiting shift times and make sure people have time off, even during the busy harvest season. We endeavour to give everyone a proper meal break. We try to be flexible and encourage them to tell us if they need a break.”
How else do you keep employees/family members safe on farm?
“We have a zero drug/alcohol policy and this is stated clearly in our induction process. We reserve the right to cancel employment if this policy is not adhered to,” said Paul.
“We try to give everyone regular breaks off machines throughout the day. We pay a good hourly rate and we highly value our employees.
“I believe most farmers in our area are doing the same – they are highly conscious of safety and value and treat their employees well.”
So while it may never be possible to eliminate all accidents on grain farms, Paul Kelly and many other grain farmers like him, are giving it their best shot.
*Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, Australian Farm Deaths and Injuries Media Monitors – 2017, Dubbo NSW 2017
**Farmsafe Australia Inc., Farm Safety Facts www.farmsafety.org.au
GrainGrowers is a member of Farmsafe Australia Inc. This feature was prepared for Farm Safety Week 2018.
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