The AIHS is supporting Farmsafe and the National Farmers Federation (NFF) this week for #farmsafetyweek2019. We have spoken with Thomas Cullen, Policy Officer, Workplace Relations and Legal Affairs at NFF about the industry today, how we can harness technology to improve safety on-farm and how the AIHS can assist in improving mental health outcomes for farmers.
Over the last 10 years we have seen a steady growth in the agriculture industry in Australia. Demographics of the workplace according to Cullen ‘is older, and ageing more rapidly than many other industries.’ This has been attributed to less ‘younger people pursuing farming as a career and livelihood, and a reluctance to retire amongst many older farmers.’ Another interesting shift in the industry has seen a ‘significant increase in the number of women working in agriculture’ notes Cullen.
While we look to technology to improve health outcomes into the future of farming, we also need to consider how to make the technology and equipment we are already using safer. As an Institute we are sadly regularly reporting on Australian farmers being injured or dying through quad bike accidents and we recognize them as the single greatest killer of Australians over any other workplace equipment. ‘While we appreciate how useful quad bikes can be as a means of traveling large properties, the dangers they pose to life and livelihood often outweigh their usefulness’ said Cullen. Apart from spreading knowledge of the dangers of their use, Cullen noted we must also be encouraging ‘the installation of rollover protection (OPD/CPD), training courses in the safe and proper use of quad bikes, wearing of protective equipment and prohibiting children from using or riding on quadbikes as passengers at any time’.
New technology solutions are being developed to aid farmers to take a better approach to both health and safety, although it is ultimately down to the individual farmer or farm business to determine which solutions will best suit their particular needs. Farmers today can utilize ‘software to manage risk assessments, drones and automation to perform surveys and dangerous jobs, more durable and sophisticated protective gear’ said Cullen.
The issue around encouraging and nurturing a safe mindset on-farm, when communities are typically working independently is inherently complex as Cullen noted that ‘no two farms or farming communities are exactly the same’. Farmsafe believes the most effective means of promotion of positive mental health is through ‘engagement with communities to build awareness and stronger support networks for farmers within said communities’. As an Institute we will continue our support of Australian farmers and farming businesses through knowledge sharing of the dangers associated with work on-farm, access to education through webinars or training, networking events in regional areas and advocacy on issues affecting those living in remote communities.
For more information about the Farmsafe initiative, visit their website here: https://www.farmsafe.org.au/.