Funding boost puts farm safety back on agenda

Funding boost puts farm safety back on agenda

Farmsafe Australia's Charles Armstrong said working with animals, chemicals, heavy machinery, big loads, and at heights or in confined spaces makes farming dangerous.

Farmsafe Australia's Charles Armstrong said working with animals, chemicals, heavy machinery, big loads, and at heights or in confined spaces makes farming dangerous.


The chair of Farmsafe Australia, Charles Armstrong, said the organisation is undergoing a significant revitalisation project.


Farmsafe Australia's ability to maintain a significant presence in the farm safety landscape has declined in the last five years.

Due to a lack of funding that severely restricted operational abilities, Farmsafe Australia was fading into the background.

With substantial support provided by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, under the National Farm Safety Education Fund, Farmsafe Australia is undergoing a significant revitalisation project.

In addition to modernising our brand, Farmsafe Australia will be launching a new website that will include Toolbox Talks (downloadable to include in any farm's induction kit), a library of academic research relating to farm safety statistics and information, information on best practice and stories of farmers who are champions in the farm safety space.

We will also be commencing a significant upgrade to our Induction Tool which will provide commodity specific and cross commodity induction activities for farm employees.

The tool will be much more user friendly than the current version and available offline for those farms that struggle with internet connection.

Farmsafe Australia will be increasing its engagement directly with farmers across all States and Territories.

Our new executive officer will be coming on farm to see and hear about what we can do better. She is a farmer herself and understands the complex issues that often get in the way of best practice safety.

Farmsafe Australia is the national body for farm safety education and we are committed to focusing the national conversation around emerging trends in the agricultural WH&S landscape and what we, as an industry, can do to turn those trends around.

Being the Chair of Farmsafe Australia is not a role I take lightly.

Farming has a very high-risk profile. And every decision I make in this position is motivated by the desire to decrease that risk for our farmers.

With that in mind, it's no secret that I am a strong supporter of quad bike safety reform. I have spent much of my advocacy career lobbying for mandatory crush protection devices due to the alarming rate of injury and fatalities that were occurring on farm.

The numbers speak for themselves. In the first six months of 2020 we have already seen nine quad bike deaths in Australia. That is a significant rise from 2019 when there were 11 in the entire 12 months.

I will be the first to tell you how valuable the quad bike is to Australian farmers. But no tool is worth as much as a human life.

There are strong opinions against our position and there are accusations that we are not listening to farmers or advocating for their needs.

I cannot think of a more important need to advocate for, than the need to come home safely at night.

There is one point we do agree on though - there would be a great safety benefit if helmets and training were mandatory and children were banned from riding adult sized quad bikes.

Yes! And we advocate for these measures as well.

Farm safety is about so much more than quad bikes though and the 2020 National Farm Safety Week is an opportunity for us to bring other critical issues into the conversation and we aim to raise awareness of all farm safety issues in rural communities across Australia.

This year's theme is 'Farming for a Future' and will focus on risk assessment and awareness, planning and mitigation, particularly in light of a tough year of drought, bushfire, floods and COVID-19.

We are looking to shine a light on farmer mental health in these discussions and we know that this year, more so than ever, we need to ensure that our farmers feel supported.

We will be sharing social media posts with the hashtag #whenthegoinggetstough, showcasing everyday activities that we use when we find ourselves struggling. We would love to see other farmers get on board and share their coping strategies for when farm life gets a little harder than usual.

I would also encourage you to take part in Farm Safety week online by posting images and stories about why farm safety is important to you using the hashtags: #farmsafeaustralia, #farmsafetyweek and #saferfarms.

- Farmsafe Australia chair Charles Armstrong


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