National Farm Safety Week isn’t typically until July each year, but with the recent Wimmera Machinery Field Days finishing up today, we thought it might be timely to put together an article on farm safety and risk management.
Farming is the most dangerous occupation in Australia, according to the University of Sydney’s Australian Farm Deaths & Injuries Media Monitors Snapshot which reported 68 fatalities in 2017 (up from 63 in 2016).
Farms are dangerous places for everyone, but children are particularly vulnerable, with 9 of the 68 fatalities involving a child aged 15 years or under. Mature-aged farmers are also at higher risk, particularly if they’ve suffered hearing loss after years of loud farm machinery with no ear protection.
Quads and tractors were reported as being involved in farm accidents most frequently. In fact, since 2001, there have been more than 200 quad-bike related deaths in Australia, and about 64% of them occurred on farms, which makes quad bikes the biggest killer of workers in Australia (according to NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean last year).
To help reduce the risks associated with farming and the farming lifestyle, we’ve put together some information around risk management and farm insurance.
What are your farm risks?
Risk management isn’t the most exciting term in the world, but it is one of the most important farm business management topics. Risk management on Australian farms includes human resources risk, marketing risk, production risk, finance risk, legal risk, climate risk and biosecurity risk.
According to the national agriculture industry platform Farm Table, managing risk on farm can be divided into four key areas, but holistically we strongly believe that there are five:
- Production/yield risk: This refers to the risk that yield or production output might be lower than budgeted. These risks can arise from weather and climate impacts (including drought, frost, lack of rain or too much at particular times, weeds, pests or disease, or machinery and equipment failure. Strategies to inhibit these risks include diversification, multi-peril crop insurance or livestock insurance.
- Market/price risk: This refers to the risk that the price you expected to receive isn’t met or the market/demand for your product is reduced so sales are inhibited. Strategies to overcome marketing and price risks include marketing strategies and entering into production or sales contracts.
- Financial/legal risk: This refers to financial risks (not having enough cash to meet obligations) as well as legal risks (not fulfilling agreements or contracts). Strategies to reduce this risk include insurance and understanding your obligations.
- Biosecurity risk: Farm biosecurity involves protecting your farm, crops and livestock from disease, pests, weeds and chemicals. Access risk management plans for your farm.
- People risk: People risk is about protecting your family and any farm employees, customers and visitors. Arguably the most important risk to consider, there are many risk management strategies you can put in place to prevent injury and protect people’s safety. There’s also insurance, which is important but it doesn’t replace loved ones.
Did you know?
The Australian government provides rebates for advice and assessments to help farmers prepare and apply for a new insurance policy that assists with the management of drought and other production and market risks. Find out more about the Managing Farm RIsk Program here.
Ways to manage risk on your farm
Farm maintenance and safety
- Take a walk – regularly explore your farm on foot and look at it as though it was the first time you were seeing it. With fresh eyes, detail any hazards or maintenance jobs that need attending to, who will complete them and by when.
- Have a talk – consult with workers and family members to get their input and feedback about any potential hazards or improvements.
- Status and repair – check that all machinery and equipment is fitted with the latest safety tools and guards and is in good repair.
- Training – ensure all employees are trained properly for the use of all machinery and equipment and use appropriate personal safety protection.
Keeping kids safe on the farm
- Secure play areas – make sure you’ve got a safe and enclosed area for children to play, with child resistant fences and self-latching gates and good visibility for whoever is ‘on duty’ and responsible for minding them.
- Secure all water areas (dams, tanks, wells, troughs) – ensure these areas are properly guarded to avoid drowning risks.
- Confined spaces – entrances to silos, grain bins and manure pits need to be securely fastened.
- Dangerous equipment and chemicals should be out of reach and locked away.
- Introduce and enforce out-of-bounds areas on the farm for children.
- Ensure kids (and adults) wear helmets to ride horses and bikes, wear seatbelts in vehicles even if it’s only on the property, and never travel in a tractor, quad bike or other vehicle unless it’s in a designated seat.
- Reinforce the rules and awareness of safety around the farm regularly.
SafeWork SA prepared a video specifically on how kids can stay safe on farms, it might be worth a watch with your little ones.
Control noise on your farm
- Around 66% of farmers have some form of hearing loss – be vigilant around firearms, chainsaws and machinery with extreme noise levels, and reduce noise where possible.
- Always wear hearing protection and try to limit exposure to extreme noise situations.
Draw up an emergency plan
- Ensure everyone on the farm understands the plan, and is properly educated on farm risks and first aid.
- Maintain regular contact with workers through mobile phone or short-wave radio – particularly when people are working alone.
- Ensure emergency numbers are readily available and routes to the nearest hospital are planned and well understood.
- Keep a log of injuries and near misses to isolate areas for improvement.
Farm insurance and workers’ compensation – your financial safety net
Make sure that should the unexpected happen: you, your employees and your farm are covered for financial losses. Western General Insurance can provide a competitive quote for farm insurance, workers’ compensation and more. Even if you just want a quote to review your current cover and make sure it covers everything it should at a competitive price, why not contact us to get peace of mind?
This information doesn’t take your personal or financial situation into account and may only be regarded as general advice. You should speak to your insurance broker before taking action. And, of course, always read the fine print (i.e. product disclosure statement) before purchasing any financial product.