The weather in 2017 has been unpredictable. But one thing we know for sure is that Australian summers are hot, and as a consequence there are extra risks in working outdoors during the summer months in agriculture.
Two key personal safety issues to consider are sun exposure which can lead to skin cancer, and heat exhaustion.Skin cancer
Outdoor workers receive 5 to 10 times more UV radiation exposure than indoor workers, significantly increasing their risk of developing skin cancer, including melanoma.
But there is good news. Survival rates from skin cancer are surprisingly high. The five-year relative survival rate for melanoma is 88% for men and 93% for women and for non-melanoma skin cancer it's 68% for men and 74% for women.
We know the evidence proves that catching skin cancer early can be the difference between life and death.
Farming families are usually pretty good at healthy eating with fresh eggs from resident chooks and often home grown fruit and veges but our good habits seem to slide down the drain at harvest time.
Harvest days are long... or should we say harvest "shifts" because they seem to merge both day and night and the last thing on the agenda is cooking! As much as our older farmers may fondly remember walking home to a kitchen smelling of freshly baked cakes and casseroles with tomorrow's lunch box in the fridge and the thermos sitting ready to fill todays reality doesn't quite cut the mustard. How many of us today are more likely to grab a few cans of coke, an iced coffee and something from a packet?
There's no doubt that farmers are busy, as are a lot of other people, however prioritising the property above their health has serious impacts on the ability to work in and on the business.
We're seeing the impact of this far and wide in rural and remote Australia with an increasing amount of obesity, stress, depression and chronic disease in farming families.
We first met Joy McClymont earlier this year at the Australian Women in Agriculture National Conference and she immediately made an impact. Her enthusiasm and passion is very contagious so we have asked Joy to be our guest this week and offer some practical solutions about keeping fit on the farm.
Farm Safety is our passion but we know how important our health affects our ability to get the job done without enduring any injuries to ourselves.
Some may remember the time when seat belts were not law. People wore them because they were told it will keep them safe, but that wasn't enough. Penalties were introduced to shake the majority into action.
Fast-forward almost 40 years. It's happening again.
My conversations had with the later group stalls when trying to associate an on farm 'safety system' with reducing fatality rates in agriculture.
Its not until I explain what it is and how it can be implemented do the heads starts to nod.
Australian famers are a passionate group, excited by their lifestyle, and many of them choose to share this enthusiasm through the written word or photography.
In this week's blog, we've decided to highlight some of our colleagues' blogs from around the country. This list of the top 10 blogs in Australian agriculture includes personal blog posts, photographic blogs as well as industry and research content.
National Agriculture Day, held on Tuesday this week, has acted as a catalyst for improving understanding of the agriculture industry among the broader Australian community.
In research before this week's celebration, the National Farmers' Federation found that 83% of Australians described their connection with farming as 'distant' or 'non-existent'.
Now is the time to seize the publicity generated by Australia's inaugural National Agriculture Day to educate our city counterparts on the importance of the industry. Agriculture is an essential ingredient in every meal on our plates, and every natural fibre on our backs.
Australia's livestock industry has arguably never been more profitable, with records prices being set during the sale of Merino ewes, prime lambs, beef cattle and wool. With profits high, it makes it an excellent time to review on-farm livestock handling facilities to ensure you can provide the most efficient and functional systems from an animal welfare and worker safety perspective.
At Safe Ag Systems, we are passionate about promoting work health and safety. We believe there are no shortcuts to WHS. Every aspect of your farming operations needs to be carefully considered, which is not to be underestimated.
The benefit of working with Safe Ag Systems is that we get it. We are farmers. We know the difference between wheat and lentils, or Merinos and Poll Dorsets. We know you don't have hours to spend every day developing work health and safety policies, so we've done that for you.
Farms are inherently dangerous places. In 2017, 45 men, women and children have been killed in on-farm accidents. Only 2.64% of Australia's workforce is employed in agriculture, yet more than 26% of all workplace deaths occur on-farm. But these facts can't be ignored. Ignorance - and complacency - can be fatal in this industry.
These 45 deaths have been reported in the media. But what if they were broadcast further than the local regional newspaper or commercial radio station? If every one of these deaths had made front page news, or the lead story on the nightly news, would it have influenced our behaviour? Would an interview with a grieving family, follow-up stories on a drawn-out legal process over the farm's operations, or profiling the children who will now grow up without a parent make you stop and think?
Grain augers are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment on a farm. The rapidly rotating metal spiral flight mechanism can whisk a finger or hand about 1.5 metres away before the injured person has time to react . Other components such as outside casing are regularly involved in electrocutions or tipping-over accidents, and moving parts such as cranking handles, drive chains and belts also contribute to injury.
Sharing our experiences is a common reality of human existence. Not only do we like to talk about what has happened to us, we like to listen to how other people have reacted in similar situations. Sharing our safety experiences should be no different. Just as everyone has a different approach to certain tasks, so too can we learn about ways to improve our on-farm health and safety by hearing of other's methods.
Farming offers a great lifestyle and can prove very rewarding, but by its nature, it is also an extremely hazardous occupation. When a farming accident happens, it affects everyone - family, friends, and, in many cases, an entire farming community. Alongside the emotional toll is the huge financial cost businesses wear as a result of an injury or fatality.
Agriculture accounts for one quarter of all workplace fatalities in Australia, a staggering statistic given the industry employs less than 3 per cent of the total workforce. Safe Ag Systems CEO Katy Landt says this needs to change, but applying safety solutions without an understanding of agribusiness operations just increases pressures on farmers. Hence the development of the Safe Ag Systems program, which will now be further extended and enhanced through a partnership with leading Australian agribusiness Elders Insurance.
Every Australian knows the reality of life here includes the presence of dangerous snakes, but would you know how to treat a snakebite if you or a colleague were bitten? With around 3,000 reported snakebites annually, 500 hospital admissions and two fatalities, ensuring you know what to do could be the difference between life and death.
Being married to a farmer has its positives - a rural lifestyle full of fresh air, vitamin D, stunning views and the ability to help your husband at work.
But don't let the fresh air spoil your view of reality - farming is hard work! There are certain times of the year when farmers work around-the-clock and have little time to spend with their better halves. Harvest has already begun in some grain-growing regions of Australia, so here are some tips on surviving the busy times:
Agriculture is a great industry. You can be your own boss, work outdoors, take long holidays in the off-peak periods, and generally learn skills and knowledge that you couldn't in a 9-5 job. However, agriculture is also one of the most dangerous industries to work in. A combination of hazards such as plant, chemicals, noise, dust, sun exposure, animals plus the fact many farmers work alone or in remote locations, contribute to this risk.
October is National Safe Work Month, a national campaign that promotes work health and safety across all industries. The theme for this year is "Sharing safety knowledge and experience benefits everyone". This provides the ideal motivation to think about how you can make your farm safer, or share your safety knowledge to improve the overall safety of the industry.
Do you sometimes feel like you're drowning in paperwork? Keeping too many files and not sure why?
Record keeping is a challenging task for all business owners, but in the agricultural industry, keeping up-to-date and accurate records will not only save you time and stress, but you'll be addressing your work health and safety responsibilities too.
What do hot donuts, woolly socks, tractors, sheepdogs, boats, private boarding schools and mops have in common? They're all available to taste, buy, try or visit during the Yorke Peninsula Field Days!
The crowd who gathers for Australia's oldest field days is as eclectic as the stalls themselves - children, farmers, politicians, journalists, mums, fashionistas, foodies and curious suburbanites - all make the biennial pilgrimage to the town of Paskeville at the top of the Peninsula for the three-day event.
Australian women in agriculture are strong, they are resilient and they are leaders, but they need support to remain this way. This is where the non-profit group Australian Women in Agriculture (AWiA) plays a vital role in ensuring an inclusive agricultural industry where women are encouraged to be leaders.
AWiA president Sarah Parker says AWiA values the input of women who are all walking their own leadership path and striving towards a stronger industry.
Seasonal workers and extra family members can often join the ranks of farm staff to help with the increased workload during peak times such as harvest and seeding. Their familiarity with site policies and procedures needs to be ensured. A simple way to streamline this process is to create seasonal safety induction kits to train short-term workers during these peak times.
You might have one. Your neighbour might have one. You might have even entered a competition to win one at some point. But do you know how to use one safely?
What: a drone.
Tipped to be worth $32.4 billion US dollars to the global agricultural industry , drone technology is revolutionising the industry rapidly. Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, can be used safely for a range of tasks including soil analysis, monitoring crop health, weed mapping, irrigation or drainage design, farm planning and more. The short turnaround time between capturing the data and analysis provides a valuable tool that can help decision making.
Today marks RU OK? Day, a day that reminds us meaningful conversations make our communities stronger and happier places to be. Agriculture can be an isolating industry and not just through distance, but it doesn't have to be.
RU OK?'s vision aims to empower everyone to connect, to boost our confidence that it's ok to have ups and downs in life and give strength and a sense of belonging to everyone. Mental health and suicide prevention is a challenge for Australia and the world and agriculture is not immune. But it is a great community that we see band together in times of need from natural disasters to times of drought. Mental health is another time the great community of agriculture can band together and all it takes is each person to have the conversation, to pay attention to the wellbeing of others and of course, their own well-being.
A farm emergency plan cares for the safety of everyone on farm, from employees to family members. It also takes into account animals, crops, buildings and machinery depending on the emergency.
While it is good practice to prepare for an emergency, it is also a legal requirement within your state's safe work laws to have a plan in place.Tips and Hints
Workplace hazards vary widely across the sectors of the agricultural industry, for example, a dairy worker will face different daily challenges to a grain grower. However the safety messages remain the same. Maintaining a healthy and safe workplace is centred on prevention, awareness and constructive solutions.
As children growing up on farms, many of us probably caused our dads all sorts of grief - running under his feet in the morning to see what he was doing, talking over the top of mum on the two-way radio, borrowing tools and not returning them to their correct spots in the shed, or mucking up the settings in the tractor when we pretended to drive it.
But through all the challenges, farming fathers still managed to instil some of lifes great values in their children - problem solving, responsibility, work ethic and loyalty - whether they were aware of it or not. As we pause this Sunday to reflect on our fathers and grandfathers, those of us who grew up on a farm know that the lessons we learnt from those father figures have set us in good stead for the future.
Having work health and safety policies demonstrates your commitment to ensuring a safe work environment and to reducing health and safety risks for all workers, contractors and visitors.
Policies should be developed through consultation with your workers and usually outline the responsibilities of management and workers. It should also encourage cooperation and consultation between managers and their workers and outline how WHS will be managed.
A passion for agriculture has taken Nicky Barker on a journey through states and careers. Now as Client Experience Manager at Safe Ag Systems, Nicky has combined her love of all things "farm" with her other talent - software usability testing and technical assistance.
As a child, Nicky's family would travel from suburban Adelaide to a sheep property near Wentworth in NSW for holidays. Finding a connection with nature and the tranquillity of farm life, Nicky decided to pursue this career path and attended Roseworthy Ag College after high school. She worked at the Turretfield Research Centre before moving to Queensland to work for a stock feed company. However, after returning to Adelaide and having raised her two children, 25-year-old nurse Mollie and 23-year-old mechanic Doug, Nicky moved into the software testing industry.
If you have children, you know you want them to one day be resilient, resourceful, show responsibility and a strong work ethic. So are you - or have you considered - raising them on a farm!?
There are many characteristics of children who are raised on a farm which not only help them in their formative years, but will stand them in good stead to be highly desirable as an employee later in life, whether it is on or off the farm. They will be loyal and respectful, as well as showing responsibility, resourcefulness and hard-working.
As an individual, we all have our own health concerns. Whether it's the damaged knee from that old footy injury, high blood pressure, or a mental health condition, we've all been to the GP and understand our own limitations. But it's important health conditions are shared between employee and employer to ensure that if anything happens on-the-job, the most accurate emergency response can be provided.
As a nation, Australians have been early adopters of technology. Our resourcefulness and tenacity saw the telegraph connect the major cities only a decade after the technology was first developed in the US, with the Overland Telegraph completed another decade after that. Now, 150 years later, that ingenuity and collaboration is extending to tackling the challenge of internet connectivity. Farmers require access to internet for their home office, precision technologies, to stay connected via mobile phones, and to engage with innovative apps to help them stay safe on their farms.
Planning ahead is easily overlooked. The day-to-day running of a business, whether it's a farm or otherwise, takes priority. However, the benefits of being proactive and taking the time out of the daily grind to plan and prepare for the future enables a sustainable agricultural industry to continue well into the future.
As a business which has grown organically with family on-board, Safe Ag Systems understands that planning for the future extends beyond determining which child, if any, is going to take over the farm! Some other factors to consider include:
Training your workers is the valuable first step toward a safe work place. In the past, primary producers have largely relied on on-the-job-learning. Less experienced staff observed a more experienced worker and gained their skills and understanding of a job through that. While there is merit in this traditional way of training for certain tasks, it also presents risks.
Consider the following two examples:
Every action you take can help provide a safe work environment. It could be as minor as moving a tree branch off the road, or as major as running a training session for your employees. Safety on farms is critical but it does not need to be hard or time consuming.
Did you know that next week is Farm Safety Week? Held annually across Australia, the week is designed to raise awareness of farm safety issues. This year, the theme is about business (you) working with industry (us) to create a resilient, safe and healthy ag community. At Safe Ag Systems, we want to work with you to increase the well-being of Australian farmers through improved attention to health and safety.
We want to make a difference, but we don't want to be the ones doing all the work! Starting Monday July 17, we're going to send you an email each day with some information about a particular topic plus an activity for you to have some fun with! Don't worry, we'll help you out along the way.
Welcome to the Safe Ag Systems' blog!
We are passionate about promoting work health and safety. We know WHS is not always the sexiest subject, but we believe it doesn't have to be the dullest, either!
So, what is this all about? At Safe Ag Systems, we believe there are no shortcuts to work health and safety. Every aspect of your farming operations needs to be carefully considered, which is not to be underestimated. Not only have we developed innovative software to help you manage your WHS requirements on farm, we want to keep you informed with what's happening in the world of agribusiness WHS and provide you with some tips and tricks on making your farming operation the safest and most efficient it can be.