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Health & safety guide


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There’s no question that farms are unique workplaces, and the combination of hazards makes primary industries one of the most dangerous sectors in which to work. In South Australia 4.5% of the total workforce works in agriculture; however, almost 19% of workplace deaths occur on farms.

This means South Australian farmers are being fatally injured at a rate of almost 5 times their share of the workforce. On top of the high fatality rate, every week 9 South Australian primary producers are injured seriously enough to access work injury insurance. Frustratingly, the vast majority of fatalities and serious injuries are preventable.

Commodity groups most at risk of serious injury are sheep, beef cattle and grain production, followed by grape growing and fruit and tree nut growing. For the period 2012-2016, the most common farm injuries across the agriculture sector were caused by:

  • muscular stress while manual handling or lifting
  • falls on the same level
  • vehicle accidents
  • being hit by animals.

As an experienced farmer, you may think you have safety covered – but it’s experienced farmers who are most likely to die on-farm.

Managing the risks

For most people working on the land your workplace is also your home, and sometimes the lines can blur. However you are running a business and as such you have a key responsibility to ensure that your own and nobody else’s safety is put at risk by what you do, what your workers do or the work done at your workplace.

We want to help you take the guesswork out of managing the risks and knowing what's expected when it comes to health and safety standards. Our Farmers’ Guidebook to work health and safety is designed to do that by providing insights into the common hazards and risks within the farming and agriculture sector.

The guide will help you understand your legal obligations and the importance of safety on the land. It provides simple and practical safety solutions and tips to help you uphold your responsibilities and make your farm, family, workers and contractors safe.

In 2016 SafeWork SA and Primary Producers SA forged an important partnership with a shared purpose to produce this guide. It is a joint revision of the 2011 guide produced by the South Australian Farmers Federation and the South Australian Dairyfarmers’ Association.

Free printed copies of the guidebook are available on request.

Using the guide

Start out by reading the Introduction followed by the section on Setting up a safe workplace. Delve a little deeper to see how you currently rate on the basic aspects of setting up a safe workplace by completing the quick safety scans at the end of this section.

The following sections cover some of the most common risks faced by farmers, such as plant and machinery and industry-specific hazards  (like stockyards and hay baling). Practical safety solutions and tips for compliance are provided throughout.

Each section also has a set of quick safety scans to help you carry out a self-audit to measure how well you are currently doing and identify areas for improvement. Select those that are relevant to the nature, size and complexity of your workplace. Those items where you tick ‘Sometimes’ or ‘Never’ will need action to fix or improve.

The final Proformas section contains templates for forms and records you might need to document what you are doing to set up, maintain and improve your work health and safety practices. These are sample documents to get you started. Personalise and tailor them to suit your particular needs and operations.