Big need to lift on-farm safety

Big need to lift on-farm safety


Opinion
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Horticulture growers, as much as anyone in agriculture, need to keep farm safety in mind.

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Editorial

THERE is a perception that life is quieter, a bit slower "in the country".

Volumes such as Enid Blyton's Children of Willow Farm have not helped in creating a vision of rural farming life as a gentle stroll through life with plenty of fresh milk and eggs to collect.

Rural life might be removed from the frizz and tizz of big cities but the reality is modern agriculture these days requires schedules that need to be kept and deadlines reached.

There are also plenty of regulations to adhere to and meetings, both virtual and face-to-face, in order to keep things ticking over.

The pace of farming has increased, is the point, and with it comes a temptation to cut costs on safety.

This is a dangerous road to head down.

The introduction of quad bikes onto farms has meant plenty of time saved by growers zipping across paddocks to check irrigation lines or crop statuses.

"Jumping on the quad" has become so second nature for many that riders have become complacent.

The figures for quad bike injuries and deaths are thrown around quite regularly in regional and rural media.

Safe Work Australia reports that in 2016, there were 10 quad bike fatalities in Australia including workers and non-workers, and 50 per cent of these were related to rollovers.

Expand the range from January 1 2011 to December 31 2016, and there have been 106 quad bike fatalities in Australia including eight fatalities of children aged 11 years of age or under.

Rules, regulations and commercial commitments will continue to flow into the future but at the base of the problem is a general taking for granted of the power of these modern machines.

All said, it doesn't paint a positive picture for these pieces of farm equipment.

Rules, regulations and commercial commitments will continue to flow into the future but at the base of the problem is a general taking for granted of the power of these modern machines.

The fact is, a quad bike isn't a suitable replacement for every piece of farm equipment; they just aren't meant to go some places, pull some loads or carry that many items.

Farmers are pressed for time (and money when it comes to fuel) so they could be forgiven for making every cross-paddock trip worthwhile and a multitasking affair.

But that shouldn't be done to the detriment of safety.

SWA lists three top quad bike safety tips:

  • Choose the right vehicle for the job;
  • Riders must be physically able to control the vehicle, trained and wear a helmet;
  • Don’t let children ride adult bikes.

Neglecting safety on farm isn't an option. There are few enough young people coming through wanting to take up a career in agriculture, so the industry doesn't need anything further to put them off.

The quiet days of Willow Farm are a myth; let's get serious about safety.

For more information on quad bike safety, visit: safeworkaustralia.gov.au/quad-bikes#quadwatch

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