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Top tips to manage on-farm safety 01 Mar 2016

Managing health and safety in farm work is not only a good way to avoid incidents - it's also a way to contribute to higher income and profit.

And there are some simple steps primary producers can take to ensure a safe workplace for themselves and their employees.

Over the eight years from 1 July 2003 to 30 June 2011, 356 people died while working on a farm – that’s 17 per cent of all worker fatalities according to Safe Work Australia.

Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) advisory panel chair Gordon Gregory said identifying and fixing safety risks on-farm isn’t a complex task if producers follow a few basic steps. 

They include consulting with workers, identifying hazards, assessing risks, controlling risks, keeping a record of actions taken, and monitoring and reviewing those actions.

“Involving and consulting workers is key and should include regular meetings where safety issues are discussed,” Mr Gregory said.

“It’s always important to be on the lookout for on-farm hazards, but that’s especially true when familiar systems change, such as with the arrival of new machinery and equipment. 

“Property owners, managers and workers all have a responsibility to identify those jobs and situations that may cause injury or illness, not only to people doing the work, but also to bystanders and visitors.”

People working on farms should report to their manager anything that could be considered hazardous to health and safety.

Risk associated with each hazard can be assessed in terms of the severity of the potential harm that could occur, and the likelihood that such an outcome could occur.

The best thing to do is to eliminate the identified hazard, for instance by swapping to a piece of equipment or infrastructure that can do the same job but is less risky.

Reducing the risk can also be achieved by providing workers with safe operating procedures or rules, organising work in such a way that reduces risk, giving safety induction and training to workers, and closely supervising unskilled workers.

Personal protective equipment must be provided and used where workers cannot be protected from a hazard by a control measure. This includes providing helmets to protect riders of motorbikes and quads.

Records should also be kept of all activity in an occupational health and safety program.

More information about these steps can be found in the Managing Grain Farm Safety guide, published by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) and the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety.

RIRDC manages the PIHSP, which it co-funds along with the Cotton and Grains Research and Development Corporations, the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia. The goal of the PIHSP is to improve the health and safety of farmers and farm workers and their families across Australia. 

For more information about the partnership, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP

FIVE STEPS TO A SAFER FARM

  • Consult - involve your workers 

  • Identify hazards - look for unsafe conditions and unsafe practices 

  • Assess the risk - for each hazard, consider the likely outcome 

  • Control the risk - use the ‘hierarchy of control’ approach to eliminate each hazard, or find something else to use instead; if that can’t be done, use protective equipment and put procedures in place to minimise the risk

  • Keep records – write down your OH&S activity