Farm safety does not need to be difficult or time consuming. A simple change in mindset to make people stop, think and assess risks before proceeding with the task at hand could prevent many accidents from happening.
This is the key message three time world champion and paralympic athletics gold medalist, Scott Reardon, is sending to farmers and the general public following his own on-farm accident in July 2002.
At twelve years of age Mr Reardon was involved in an accident on his family’s property at Temora, NSW.
“I was working down the paddock with my dad and brother all day. Dad went to grab the sprayer so my sixteen-year-old brother and myself were digging the last hole of the day with the post hole digger,” he said.
“I was standing a bit too close and my shoelace got caught in the power-take-off (PTO) shaft and the rest is history.
“I woke up on the ground, my lower leg completely amputated, two and a half kilometers down the paddock and 25km from the nearest hospital.”
Mr Reardon believes he is lucky to have survived the accident but didn’t understand what it meant until one day he looked under his hospital blanket and realised he was an amputee. He spent three and a half weeks in hospital at Canberra, in and out of consciousness, before he was sent home to recover.
“I also broke my femur in the accident so I had to wait for it to heal before I got my first prosthetic leg in. It was quite a short recovery but I think that was the benefit of it happening when I was so young. I was young, naive and keen to live life.”
Less than 12-months after his accident, Mr Reardon learnt to water-ski and began competing in the sport. He soon after became a three-time world champion, before moving onto a career as a T42 100 meter runner.
Mr Reardon said the event was an accident but it is important to adapt mindsets to consider the safety of ourselves and those around us.
“There is a lot of things you can do with equipment, label everything and do everything you can, but the biggest thing we need to do in a high risk environment like a farm is actually stop for a moment,” he said
”Safety needs to be treated as a mindset first and foremost. We need to think about what we are going to do before we do it, to reduce the risks involved.”
“Everyday we go and do a risk assessment, pass it and proceed. Something as simple as crossing the road, we stop, look both ways and cross when it is safe. That is what we should be doing on a regular basis.
“People think work place safety is a slow process that makes things take longer but the reality is we do it everyday without even thinking about it. It is so ingrained in what we do in other parts of our life.”
Mr Reardon said taking five seconds to actually think about what you are going to do may stop someone or yourself from doing something, which could save lives.
Giving presentations on workplace health and safety, resilience and motivational topics, Mr Reardon said in industry he quite often hears “it was an accident waiting to happen”.
“I hear it way too often and if it was and accident waiting to happen, someone knew about it and why wasn’t something done about it?,” he said.
"If something happened and you knew about it, you would have to live with that guilt for the rest of your life, knowing you could’ve prevented it. I don’t want anyone to have to live with that guilt,” he said.
Mr Reardon said there has been a big shift in the last 10 years with people in businesses and companies starting to take a genuine concern in the employees.
“People are starting to stand up and say we need to start thinking about what we are doing, we need to start implementing safe strategies within our business to make sure we are caring for the people that work for us,” he said.
The mental side of farm accidents can be much harder.
“It is something underestimated in work place accidents; the people who see things and have to deal with it for the rest of their life can be somewhat harder than the certain person that has to live with the whatever has happened. The mental side of me loosing my leg was probably much worse for my family than me living with one leg for the rest of my life.”