VICTORIAN farmers will get two farm safety officers and increased online resources to improve on-farm health and safety after a $3 million State Government grant.
The Victorian Farmers Federation said the ‘Making our Farms Safer’ grant will allow the VFF to employ the officers and develop online tools and boost access to resources to protecting farmers and others on farms.
VFF president David Jochinke said the health and safety of everyone on farms must always be our top priority, with workers, families and farmers all exposed to the dangers present on farms.
“The agricultural sector is one of the most dangerous workplaces in Victoria, not just for farmers, but everyone present on the farm.”
VFF chief executive officer Stephen Sheridan said the VFF has been lobbying and working with the government to address the farm sector’s higher than average workplace accident rates and commends the initiative.
“The VFF believes that developing and providing an industry led farm safety service is a far more effective way to achieve on-farm practice change,” he said.
“The VFF is not a regulator, but is a farmer-led organisation that understands the real health and safety issues facing farmers, and the need to help provide a means to manage and reduce the inherent health and safety risks, rather than simply focus on compliance.”
He said the farm safety officers would work directly with farmers to help identify potential safety issues and introduce best practice safety processes to help safeguard workers, families and farmers on farms.
Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes said on average there are around two serious injuries on Victorian farms every day and in the past five months six people have died while working on a farm.
“Those at risk of injury or death on Victorian farms are not just farmers, but also farm families, employees, suppliers and contractors.
“To address this, there is a need to change the culture and mindset of people in agriculture to prioritise safety,” she said.
“The government recognises that changing attitudes and improving the sector’s focus on safe farming practices needs to be driven by industry to be best suited for industry, with the VFF helping to lead this change.”
Other initiatives the government is implementing to change these attitudes include funding for Kidsafe Victoria and the National Centre for Farmer Health to run campaigns aimed at school students, and the establishment of the Farm Safety Council to advise on how to reduce farm injuries and deaths.
Mr Jochinke said last year almost half of all workplace deaths in Victoria involved some sort of machinery or heavy vehicles, making farms one of the leading workplace locations for deaths and injuries in the state.