National Farm Safety Week starts with VIC funding boost

Sheep Central, July 20, 2020

VICTORIA has announced more than $200,000 in funding for two programs to kick off National Farm Safety Week in the state.

National Farm Safety Week runs from 20-24 July to raise awareness of farm safety issues in rural communities across Australia.

The Victorian Government funding will support the roll out of two new educational programs for rural and regional school students to start changing attitudes towards safety on farms from an early age.

Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes said Kidsafe Victoria will receive a $97,000 grant to support its work preventing unintentional death and injury of children by delivering a farm safety campaign and creative competition in primary schools over three years.

The National Centre for Farmer Health will receive a $108,500 grant to deliver twenty ‘Gear up for Agriculture Health and Safety’ workshops to Victorian secondary school students who have an interest in agriculture.

Ms Symes said increasing education and awareness is crucial in order to change the culture of safety on farms – by partnering with Kidsafe Victoria and the National Centre for Farmer Health, we can do this from an early age.

“This Farm Safety Week is a good reminder that we all have a role to play in understanding that farms are workplaces as well as homes, and how we behave on them can have significant consequences for every person who works, lives or visits one,” she said.

Minister for Workplace Safety Jill Hennessy said the agricultural sector is overly represented in fatality statistics and helping Victorian students understand the role they play in making farms safer will make a difference now and for every person who participates in the agriculture sector over the years to come.

Regional children at risk

The Monash University Accident Research Centre found that children aged younger than 15 in Victoria’s outer regional areas are four times more likely to die due to injury than children in our major cities.

MUARC recommended addressing this problem through increased education and awareness of known injury hazards such as dams, farm equipment and off-road motorbike use.

The grants are part of the Victorian Government’s $20 million Victoria’s Smarter, Safer Farms program which is addressing skills and safety issues in the agriculture sector.

To find out more about the educational programs visit the Agriculture Victoria website.

This year’s theme for Farm Safety Week is “Farming for a Future” and will focus on risk assessment and awareness, planning and mitigation, particularly in light of a year of drought, bushfire, floods and COVID-19. It will also have a strong focus on mental health awareness and support.

Farmsafe Australia chair Charles Armstrong said farmers and farm employees generally know the risks associated with the tasks that they perform day to day; however, a combination of familiarity, complacency, fatigue, stress et cetera, can be the difference between business as usual and tragedy on farm.

This highlighted the importance of on farm inductions and site specific risk assessments, with follow up mitigation techniques and daily toolbox talks.

Farmsafe Australia said inductions ensure that anyone new to the farm is familiar with the safety risks on farm and has basic information on how to avoid those risks.

Site-specific risk assessments and mitigation techniques ensure that farmers have considered all possible sources of danger and have put controls in place to minimise or eliminate those risks and regular toolbox talks open up the lines of communication for all employees to be aware of new or existing issues. These processes continually draw employee’s attention back to the risks, even in jobs that they have been performing for most of their lives, Farmsafe Australia said.

As part of Farmsafe Australia’s revitalisation project, a new suite of downloadable toolbox talks will soon be made available to Aussie farmers for free.

“Unfortunately, the other factor that prevents the risk assessment method from being as effective as it should be is often the risk culture that is associated with farming,” Mr Armstrong said.

“Driving cultural change towards best practice safety approaches is not always popular as it forces each and every one of us to look in the mirror and face the facts that every day, we make choices, or deflect the responsibility of making choices, that could severely injure or even kill ourselves or those we care about,” he said.

For more information about National Farm Safety Week click here.



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