THIS week is National Farm Safety Week - from July 17 to 21 – and is aiming to raise greater awareness about farm safety issues throughout the nation.
Farm Safety Week has been running for almost two decades and is designed to try and reduce deaths and injuries linked to on-farm health and safety risks.
Safe Work Australia figures say in 2015-16 the agriculture industry made up 2.3 per cent of the workforce, but accounted for 23pc of worker fatalities.
Between 2005-15, an average of 41 workers lost their lives in the agriculture industry each year and 3,015 serious claims were made.
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister Luke Hartsuyker said he was encouraging farmers and rural workers to keep their safety, health and wellbeing front and centre all year round – not just during this week.
He said agriculture was the biggest employer in rural and regional communities and farm safety should be a priority for everyone in the sector.
“From vehicular and tractor safety, to working with chemicals and animals, to dealing with stress and mental health issues or the safety of older farmers and children - farming can be a high risk job,” he said.
“National Farm Safety Week is an important opportunity to start a dialogue - both at home and in the workplace - across the farming sector and in regional communities.
“While the government will continue to work closely with industry and peak work safe bodies to address farm safety, it is everybody’s responsibility to ensure farm health and safety is treated as a priority and that proactive steps are taken to recognise warning signs and mitigate any risks.”
Mr Hartsuyker said one of 2017 National Farm Safety Week’s main focuses was quad and vehicle safety, given tractors, other machinery and quad bikes were the leading causes of deaths on farms.
He said in 2016, quad bikes accounted for the highest number of overall agricultural deaths and injuries.
“Tragically, already this year we have seen a number of farmers killed while riding quad bikes,” he said.
“This is why the Australian government is working with state and territory governments to improve quad bike safety to create a safer working environment for all farmers and rural workers.”
The theme of this year’s National Farm Safety Week – an initiative of FarmSafe Australia - is creating a resilient, safe and healthy ag community’.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) and Farmsafe Australia said the number of people losing their lives from on-farm incidents had significantly decreased in the past 25 years – but more work was needed to make farms safer.
Farmsafe Australia Chair and NFF’s Workplace Committee Chair Charles Armstrong said the yearly average of lives lost from farm incidents had decreased from 146 in 1991 to 63 in 2016.
But he said one life lost is one too many and “we must all take greater responsibility for improving the safety of our farms”.
“Already, as of June 30, we have seen 32 tragic deaths resulting from injuries sustained in quad bike and farm machinery incidents,” he said.
"We must act now to turn these statistics around."
Mr Armstrong said having safety as a major aspect of the farm business would not only reduce risks to those who worked and lived on farms but would also improve farm bottom lines and create a resilient, safe and healthy ag community.
“We want to see every farm across Australia take steps to improve safety each and every day,” he said.
The NFF and FarmSafe Australia highlighted practical steps farmers can take to improve safety including:
Develop a safety plan that identifies potential hazards and taking specific actions to fix these.
Always be on the look-out for new hazards and fixing these as soon as possible once identified.
Set clear safety procedures for risky work.
Ensure everyone that works on the farm understands and uses the safety procedures you have for your farm.
Develop and communicate an emergency plan in case of any incidents.
As a matter of urgency, fit a crush protection device to quad bikes and always wear a helmet.
Mr Armstrong said farming must be both profitable and safe which can be achieved if safety is promoted as a core value of farm businesses.
“It’s about making sure that everyone involved in the farm gets home safe and sound at the end of each working day,” he said.
“That’s a good thing, not just for our families, but also our businesses and communities.”
Victorian Farmers Federation President David Jochinke said the number of deaths caused by accidents should be addressed.
“This is plainly unacceptable and the whole industry needs to get serious about implementing a zero fatality target,” he said.
“All it takes is a few minutes to check that equipment is safe to use, or that best practice methods are being followed.
“We need to constantly remind ourselves that if we’re not careful, we will get hurt.
“You need to keep a well-stocked first aid kit wherever you’re working and if you work alone, make a plan on how you will seek help in an emergency.
“It’s also vital to consider safe working conditions when children are involved.
“I joined my dad on the farm and most farmers teach their children the ropes of running the family business. But children on farms are high-risk.
“We need to show our children what a safe farm looks like.”