In this presentation from the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President, Brent Finlay, you will learn more about how making safety a feature of everyday farm practice can benefit farmers and their communities.
Brent will provide an overview of work health and safety on farms and consider how farmers can manage their obligations under the laws. This will include the “reasonably practicable” requirement and record keeping. There will also be practical tips to improve farm safety.
Who is this presentation for?
This presentation is for farm owners, operators, workers and anyone interested in improving farm safety.
About the presenter
Brent Finlay has more than 25 years' experience in agriculture and has worked extensively in sheep, wool, cattle, grain and hay production. Brent’s previous roles include President of the Traprock Wool Association, Board member of AgForce Sheep and Wool Queensland and Senior Vice President of WoolProducers Australia.
Brent became President of AgForce Queensland in 2010 which was a challenging time farmers and graziers because of floods, cyclones, wild dogs and the live export crisis. Brent was elected NFF President in November 2013.
Farm Safety: It’s important!
Virtual Seminar Series October 2014 – Farm Safety
Safe Work Australia, National Farmers' Federation
So Brent. Tell us about farm safety. Why is it so important?
Well, all our farms across Australia are very complex places to work and we have farmers, farm workers, we have family, we have friends who visit. It's unpredictable what can happen on a farm. We have large animals, we have lots of working machinery. So to understand the risks and also to look out for each other is very important.
Sophie Keatinge: Obviously a lot of family farms are run by family farmers themselves which require family labour. If someone in the family was to fall ill or to get injured, what does that mean for that farm business?
Brent Finlay: Well, there's 135,000 farms in Australia, farm businesses in Australia. A lot of those are mum and dad and the kids on the farm. So if a key person - the farmer gets hurt or something happens to them with an accident on farm, quite often that seriously affects the ability of that farm to make a business but also upsets the social fabric of that family, and it causes everybody a huge amount of stress.
Sophie Keatinge: What is the current state of play at the moment. Are farms not safe?
Brent Finlay: Well, all farms are different and that's one of the – I guess no two farms are the same. So when people go onto a farm or farm workers move from farm to farm or visitors come to farms and you need to know what are the risks that are on that farm. Now whether you're working with large animals, where the machinery is or where there might be – where the dam is or there could even be a well on a farm. So you need to be able to look out for where the risks are and it's very important to actually talk to the farmer and the farmer to take all their visitors, all their employees through an induction process about the risks that are on that farm. So everyone has a great visit or a great work environment and everyone stays safe.
Sophie Keatinge: The law requires – and I'm going to read this – that "A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure so far is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers at work." Brent, you're a farmer yourself and you have – you know – people that come onto your property, a new worker, a farm visitor, a friend, what kind of process do you take them through to ensure that they are safe on your farm?
Brent Finlay: We do. We have property entry signs which requires visitors to the farm or workers coming onto the farm for the first time to actually report to myself or to my father, but then we actually sit down with them and go through a checklist and explain how our farm operates, where the potential risks are on the property to identify them, and also around safe handling procedures, whether it's lifting weights or certainly around the use of the chemicals that we use on the farm.
Sophie Keatinge: Absolutely and it's as simple as showing someone where are the safety helmets, where are the gloves to ensure that they are safe. Is that right? Page 2 of 3
Brent Finlay: That's right, but and also monitoring and looking at people when they're actually in the cattle yards, in the sheep yards, how they actually handle live stock, but also how they use machinery, how they ride a motorbike or ride a quad bike to make sure that they have all the safety gear on that's required.
Sophie Keatinge: What's changed when farm workers come onto your property?
Brent Finlay: When I think back to when I was younger or when I was growing up on the property, it was a fairly relaxed environment to work in and we had workers coming and going all the time, to now it's a very professional workplace, very conscious of farm safety, keeping a close eye on visitors and employees that come onto the property to make sure that they actually understand the risks that are on that place as well. Again, very vigilant about making sure that the workplace activities are done in an appropriate manner. As soon as I or my father see anything that's not quite right, I know we're very quick to move to sort of encourage people to "We need to do it this way." Again, it's about continuing to lift the bar.
We have a shearing shed. We shear for probably four weeks a year, so we have 15-16 people come into that workplace a couple of times a year, making sure that everyone understands how the shearing shed works, what's acceptable, how they need to be dressed, how they need to take care of their shearing gear as well, but also how they actually work with the animals. These are animals that don't like being shorn, but the shearers do a very good job of it, to make sure that it is a safe environment for everybody in there, but it's also managing the personalities that are in that environment, again just making sure things are just done. I'm very particular that everybody gets on in my workplace, but also understand the risks that are associated with that.
Again, with machinery, making sure that when anyone comes onto the property, if they're going to be riding one of the bikes, that they actually understand that they need to put a helmet on, they need to actually wear the right attire. I'm certainly aware of, in my district, aware young people have been riding side-by-sides and side-by-side quad bikes have safety features on them like seatbelts. They weren't wearing the seatbelts. One of them was thrown off the bike, hurt their – broke their arm. If they'd been wearing the seatbelt, that was a safety device that they'd been told they had to wear on that bike. One of them should have said "Hang on, make sure you clip on before you take off."
We also know – I've had children falling out the back of utes. Again, it's no place for children to be in the back of the ute, not under any circumstances. So again, we have to be careful about that. When we see it happen we've got to say "No," that "You don't do that. That doesn't happen on my farm." We have to be strong. Sometimes you have to be strong and you can't be everybody's friend all the time. If things look like they're being done incorrectly, you have to stop it. You have to say "Pull up. Let's reassess this. We don't do this on my farm."
Sophie Keatinge: Brent, you touched on quad bikes. Quad bikes are a hot issue. What is the NFF's position on quad bike safety?
Brent Finlay: We are constantly reviewing our position on quad bikes and moving towards some form of rollover protection, and certainly making sure that children under the age of 16 are not using quad bikes at all. On my own property we've moved from two-wheel motorbikes to quad bikes and we've been using quad bikes for 20 years and now we're moving away from quad bikes to side-by-side vehicles.
Sophie Keatinge: And you said before that most farm incidents are preventable. What sort of things can farmers do to keep safe?
Brent Finlay: Well certainly making sure that if you see something that's not quite right in the workplace, that you say "No, stop. You need to do this. You need to do that." Observing people working in our stock handling facilities with large animals, to make sure that they show good stockmanship or actually educate and explain to them, making sure that all our machinery is safe, that all the protection devices are on the machinery, they're all working and the machinery is in good order and condition, and again, just continue to reassess what's happening on the farms, what's happening in the production system so that you can actually advise people of any changes that may have happened. Page 3 of 3
Sophie Keatinge: Brent, we talked about visitors on farm. Some disturbing facts show that 30% of farm incidents happen to farm visitors and also that children account for approximately one in five deaths on farm.
Brent Finlay: They're appalling statistics and it's a sad reflection on Australian agriculture. We all have to work to improve that. Farm safety is absolutely paramount. Whether it's farmers, it's their employees, their visitors, their family, we have to consistently remain vigilant to make our farms far safer and when it comes to children, they're such a – they are so precious, we have to look after them. We have to make sure that their visit to a farm is a safe, happy visit and not somewhere where we actually have an incident or at worst, a fatality.
Sophie Keatinge: What are the kind of things that farmers can do to prevent these kind of incidents happening on farm?
Brent Finlay: No children on quad bikes, no children on machinery. Make sure that children aren't in the yards where we're working with large livestock. There's also an area that's a very safe area for children that are under five to be able to play where they're out of harm's way. All of our farms have watering points and dams, so all children must be supervised and we must know where they are at all times.
Sophie Keatinge: Now we've talked about the physical side of farm safety, but what about mental health and wellbeing? Is it a big issue among the farm community?
Brent Finlay: It certainly is. We have farmers that operate and farm employees that operate sometimes in stressful situations and whether it's in natural disasters or in drought and I've got personal experience about that. So it's about bringing people together, looking at people, talking to people. In the droughts, in the '90s and in the millennium drought in 2000, very much about bringing communities together so people can actually talk to each other, have somebody to have a yarn to, but also those people that weren't at those social gatherings, to go and grab them and bring them in as well. It's important to find people that you can actually talk to and just keep – you know – keep an eye on them. Look after your mate, look after your family. That's really important and if someone is in trouble or you think that there is – they're having certainly serious issues with mental health, actually encourage them to seek professional help through Lifeline or beyondblue but to make sure that someone knows that they need assistance.
Sophie Keatinge: Brent, as we've discussed, safety induction is important. How do you keep records of that?
Brent Finlay: We have a form that all employees that come onto our property go through. It talks about the activities on our property and where the risks that potentially are. They read that. They sign the form and I also sign the form, and that's a record that commences their employment.
Sophie Keatinge: I believe that Farmsafe have launched a safety induction app to keep a record of this induction process. Would you use that?
Brent Finlay: It's a great initiative. Certainly looking forward to using it and if you go to the Farmsafe website, it's all on there and also have a look around the website and see what else is there.
Sophie Keatinge: As the President of the National Farmers' Federation, what are the key messages for our members?
Brent Finlay: Australian agriculture is at a very exciting time now. We have a wonderful opportunity in front of us. The future looks bright. Let's make sure our farms are safe, all our employees, all our family, all our friends are safe and let's be as productive as we can for this country.
[End of Transcript]
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