The agriculture industry is subject to extremely dangerous work hazards which are compounded by the fact that that there so many work practices that are of risk. The weather, the environment, working with chemicals, the machinery required, manual handling and animal handling are just a few of the risks that make the job dangerous. As a result there are many laws, legislations, regulations, acts, initiatives, codes of conduct and licenses that have arisen because of these dangers.
Where do we start? Well firstly state governments manage a range of permits that govern how you will dispose of waste, handle livestock, manage fire safety, erect fencing, handle and store chemicals which all take into account both the workers and the public. There are requirements for workplace noise management, standards for protective clothing, standards for signage, manual handling and the use of quad bikes. There are electrical safety practices, biosecurity measures and even practices for safety with hay bales.
As is the case in any industry, farm managers are obliged to protect their workers from these hazards, hence the legislations. But also remember that they are obliged to protect any visitors and also the general public. A farm manager needs to be proactive by eliminating hazards and if that is not possible then the manager must minimise the risk as best they can. They must choose the safest equipment for the farm and have a maintenance schedule that ensures all equipment is kept in a way that will reduce any potential injuries. A manager must attempt to purchase the safest chemicals for the job and ensure that old chemicals are disposed of appropriately. All workers must be well versed in the application of the chemicals and employ correct protective equipment on all occasions. It is the manager’s duty to observe their workers and ensure they are correctly protected. As a general rule should be practice for any new workers to remain under a period of supervision as they build their experience.
Quad bikes and tractors come with their own set of safety regulations and rightly so. They are the cause of many serious accidents and fatalities on the farm. Tractors must be fitted with roll bars, anything new will have this but old tractors need to be adjusted in this respect. For both vehicles, driving on slopes is a potential hazard and anything too steep should be avoided. Wear protective equipment, for example helmets for quad bikes, ear muffs for tractors. Don’t force a vehicle to carry out a procedure it is not meant to do and always be well aware of your surroundings, both for environmental hazards and for people. Whenever I saw anyone approaching when running a rotary hoe or slasher for example I would always turn off the PTO and lower the attachment.
Animals on the farm carry their own set of risks. A farmer mate of mine still wears the scar on his face wear he was kicked by a horse! Anyone handling livestock should have knowledge of handling practices. They should understand how to restrain the animal, where to stand safely when around animals and be aware of the dangers of working along around animals. Farm managers should ensure that all pens and fencing are adequate and well maintained and should have a first aid kit on hand.
Remember that each state has a safe work body that puts forward regulations and are very helpful in providing information. For South Australia, check out www.safework.sa.gov.au and hunt down the page for Agriculture and Horticulture.
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