Farm deaths require radical approach

WorkSafe Victoria has reported  that of seven recent work-related fatalities, three have occurred in regional areas on farms.  The most recent death was misreported as involving a quad bike.

In a media release issued on 10 May 2011, WorkSafe’s Ian Forsythe said,

“Safety’s not just about what WorkSafe does. It’s about employers, workers and the wider community taking ownership of it not just for themselves, but the wider community.

It is imperative that regional Victorians, whether they are employers, self-employed or workers to stop and think about what is ultimately important to them and what they can do to prevent more tragedies affecting them and their communities.”

Over the last 20 years WorkSafe has tried a wide variety of safety campaigns in rural farming communities.  Some have involved targeted “blitzes” on specific areas or industries.  Others, such as the current sponsorship of rural football, aim at raising the communities’ awareness of the importance of workplace safety.  The rate of injuries and fatalities mentioned in the media release do not indicate a crisis over such a short period but when taken over a longer period, it suggests that it may be time to reassess the safety campaign strategies  in a fresh or radical manner.

What type of farm vehicle was involved?

The most recent fatality involved the death of an 18-year-old female

“…farm worker [who] died on an almond plantation near Nangiloc when a four wheeled farm utility vehicle tipped on to its side as the rider was taking a turn.”

The impact of the Lani Taylor’s death is perhaps best illustrated by some article from the local newspapers.  The article provides more details of the incident than does the WorkSafe media release

Several readers contacted SafetyAtWorkBlog this evening seeking confirmation that this incident involved the use of a quad bike (perhaps due to an inaccurate headline on the ABC news website).  We contacted WorkSafe and were advised that the vehicle involved was definitely not a quad bike, however that only address one element of the fatality reported above.

WorkSafe has advise that the vehicle was a two-seater “mule”-type vehicle with a tray component on the rear, similar to the type pictured right.  The vehicle had a 200-litre spray tank mounted on the vehicle which was around 50% full.  This type of farm vehicle is often seen as a safer option to a quad bike but similar driver requirements apply, such as driver balance, experience and training.  The vehicles are often fitted with a frame that can meet the suitable safety and structural standards for a rollover protective structure but this is not always the case.  The frame on some two-seater vehicles are intended for other uses such as the mounting of accessories, lights and so forth.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

3 thoughts on “Farm deaths require radical approach”

  1. Col,

    I think you\’re right about \”shed training\”. From our farm, the closest major regional centres are an hour\’s drive away.

    We have one full-time employee but in the last year, have had another four very casual workers on farm and could not afford to send them all on the very extensive courses (and pay for their time) that deal with each major group of hazards on farm. Imagine sending five people (plus my husband and I) to one or two-day courses on tractors and quads alone! It\’s not feasible.

    The reality is that simpler, competency-based local training is necessary if we are going to get farmers on board with OHS.

  2. I think MMM\’s observations really need some hard thinkin\’ on alternative training options for small business. No doubt at all that good comprehensive training is the best option, but farmers, like lots of small businesses take a big hit having people away on training for a long time. It\’s the reason I try and pack in as much of a \”heads-up\” on smart OHS thinking when I meet with small business clients.

    For mine, I woulda liked to have seen the Fed budget have a serious slab of funding put aside for supporting small business safety training. And as a colleague said in a chat about small business training, any funding options should include subsidies for lost income. Skills training is great, but it still seems that skills training is still not seen as incorporating clever OHS decision-making.

    That said, a farm worker not there when a mob of cattle need loading or to be on deck to deal with a job urgently needing to be done still amounts to being a worker down.

    Options for farmers could include \”shed training\”, with trainers on-site at a central location delivering cut-to-the-chase training on smart OHS decision-making. I\’d be having a bunch of local farmers work out the training schedule they decide makes sense for them.

    Col Finnie

  3. This is a bit of a sore spot for me, Kevin. As a farmer, I have found it extraordinarily difficult to source proper training here at the farm or locally. Many farmers have very limited budgets for OHS and even less time to manage safety systems themselves. We need very practical help. Now!

    That means local training days for employers and workers alike. I also favour (but may be on my own here) a \”green card\” for the industry – we tend to employ a lot of contractors and casual workers and there needs to be an incentive for them to be qualified to operate machinery safely. A farmer employing a casual worker for a day per month, for example, cannot afford to send him or her on a 2-day training course for tractor and FEL operation.

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