Engineer turned farmer urges rethink on farm safety

'Cultural change' needed on farm safety

Sheep
UNACCEPTABLE RECORD: Engineer turned farmer Bruce Wood says agriculture must take safety more seriously to reduce on-farm deaths.

UNACCEPTABLE RECORD: Engineer turned farmer Bruce Wood says agriculture must take safety more seriously to reduce on-farm deaths.

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After 40 years working in the safety-conscious oil and gas industry, Bruce Wood has been shocked by the lack of regard for safety in farming. The South East farmer says it is time for agriculture to address the alarming statistics.

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After 40 years working in the safety-conscious oil and gas industry, Bruce Wood has been shocked by the lack of regard for safety in farming.

The engineer turned South East farmer says it is time for agriculture to take action and address the alarming statistics.

Despite making up less than 5 per cent of SA's workforce, farmers and farm employees account for 19pc of workplace deaths.

"Of the 40,000 people that work in SA agriculture, for every 200 that work for 50 years, one of these can be expected to die at work and who knows how many seriously injured," he said.

"That is not normal for an industrial environment and farming is industrial, and the majority of these fatalities and injuries are preventable."

He says "cultural change" is needed - especially if the industry wants to attract more young people - and business owners and managers must lead by example.

Mr Wood has spent the past seven years on his 1400-hectare Locmaria Farms on the SA-Vic border near Naracoorte, creating a safe working environment for his employees.

It was difficult to know where to start but most people get killed most often when things go unexpectedly 'bang'. - BRUCE WOOD

The properties run 10,500 composite ewes in a techno grazing system.

Locmaria's safety journey began by addressing electrical hazards across the farm and regularly testing electrical equipment.

"It was difficult to know where to start but most people get killed most often when things go unexpectedly 'bang' and when you get an unexpected release of energy," Mr Wood said.

The farm business has also developed safe working procedures for working at heights using harnesses and fitting levers to open silo lids from the ground.

Fire extinguishers have been fitted to all vehicles, and are tested every six months.

Quad bikes have been banned from the farm.

Mr Wood stresses the importance of discussing safe work practices in their regular "toolbox" meetings.

He says internal audits with staff and external audits with Farm Safe Australia have also been important to identify potential hazards.

Despite the significant progress Locmaria Farms has made, Mr Wood says there is still a long way to go to match the safety record of his former profession.

People may say working in agriculture is a dangerous job but it need not be that way. - BRUCE WOOD

Last year, among the seven staff they had two lost-time injuries and one high potential incident, which Mr Wood says equates to more than 100 incidents for every million hours worked.

"The gold standard in safety in the oil and gas industry is to achieve one incident for every million hours worked and many businesses are achieving this," he said.

Ethically, protecting staff with good on-farm safety is the right thing to do, according to Mr Wood, but paying closer attention to details also makes good business sense.

"People may say working in agriculture is a dangerous job but it need not be that way," he said.

"When you compare it to oil and gas, mining and earth moving, it is not inherently dangerous and all of these other industries have addressed their safety failures."

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