AgSafe ini­tia­tive

Mix of on-farm haz­ards a chal­lenge for par­ents

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - News - . KIRILI LAMB kirili.lamb@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

FACTORIES and work­shops don’t have houses parked in the mid­dle of them. Farms do.

This is a ba­sic re­al­ity of farm­ing life, and that in turn cre­ates the un­usual sit­u­a­tion where chil­dren of­ten be­come a part of that work­place.

Fiona O’Sul­li­van, agri­cul­ture unit man­ager for Work­place Health and Safety Queens­land, said that iso­la­tion, pre­vent­ing ac­cess to child­care, could com­pound that pres­ence of chil­dren in the agri­cul­tural work­place.

“It’s just not prac­ti­cal in a lot of in­stances,” Fiona said.

“So we some­times end up with chil­dren hav­ing to be part of that work­place at a very young age; maybe not even do­ing the work, but be­ing present while the work’s be­ing done, be­cause not ev­ery­one has the avail­abil­ity of a hav­ing a carer to help with that.”

Fiona said the pri­mary ar­eas for in­jury of younger chil­dren on farms was around drown­ings in wa­ter stor­ages and sep­tic tanks, and run-over in­ci­dents.

“The drive­way for any fam­ily is a re­ally high-risk area, re­gard­less of what in­dus­try they’re in,” she said.

“If a child is go­ing to be run over, it’s usu­ally go­ing to be in a drive­way, and it’s usu­ally go­ing to be by a mem­ber of the fam­ily. And the same re­ally does ap­ply to a farm.

“The run-over ar­eas are a little dif­fer­ent – around houses and around sheds. It’s where there is a lot of ma­chin­ery op­er­at­ing, and we do get small chil­dren there. It’s crit­i­cal to have a clear sep­a­ra­tion be­tween chil­dren

and those work ar­eas, be­cause that’s a re­ally high-risk area.

“The vis­i­bil­ity, es­pe­cially from heavy ma­chin­ery is just not there to be able to spot a small child.”

For older chil­dren be­com­ing in­volved in farm work, there should be clear ed­u­ca­tion about how to do jobs.

“That can be a bit of a test for ev­ery­body, be­cause we all learn from our par­ents, who learnt from their par­ents, and some­times there’s a fam­ily short­cut to do­ing some­thing,” Fiona said.

“We have to work to change that cul­ture. Near enough is def­i­nitely not good enough: you need to be able to do things prop­erly, and use the right equip­ment to do the tasks prop­erly: that does stop a lot of in­ci­dents oc­cur­ring.

“Spend that time with chil­dren to teach them, to tell them sto­ries about do­ing things the right way, be­cause most chil­dren learn through sto­ries.”

She said good com­mu­ni­ca­tion around work and safety pro­cesses from par­ents would es­tab­lish con­fi­dence and un­der­stand­ing in chil­dren

“Be able to have that time to put into the kids from very early on, so that if they are in­volved in the work, they know what’s ex­pected of them, they know they’re not in a po­si­tion where they are scared to speak up if they need help, or say if they don’t know some­thing.

“That’s where we see older chil­dren get­ting into trou­ble, when they are push­ing those bound­aries, as all teenage kids do.

“Young work­ers are at re­ally high risk be­cause they don’t know their bound­aries, and they don’t know their jobs.

“We just need to make sure those bound­aries are safe for them, so they can be fully in­te­grated in the work­place and learn how to do things prop­erly from the word go.”

Only around one third of in­juries in agri­cul­ture in Queens­land are cov­ered un­der Work­ers’ Com­pen­sa­tion. Own­ers of prop­er­ties and their fam­ily mem­bers are not legally de­fined as “work­ers”, so in­juries are not cov­ered.

And so, the sta­tis­tics re­lat­ing to chil­dren who are in­jured or killed on farms don’t ac­tu­ally con­trib­ute to that al­ready hor­ren­dous fact that “3% of Queens­lan­ders work on farms, but 30% of work­place deaths hap­pen on them”.

“Those num­bers are bad enough, but be­cause those num­bers are re­ally only talking about com­pen­sa­t­able in­juries and fa­tal­i­ties, we know the num­bers are even more hor­rific,” Fiona said.

“We need to have the gov­ern­ment work­ing closely with peak in­dus­try bod­ies, and the agri­cul­ture sec­tor, all lev­els of work­ers and in­dus­try bod­ies, work­ing to­gether to bring these sta­tis­tics down.

“Sta­tis­tics are one thing, but the im­pacts we see in a ru­ral com­mu­nity from an in­jury or fa­tal­ity: it wrecks lives, it wrecks com­mu­ni­ties, it wrecks fam­i­lies. A lot of fam­i­lies don’t ever get over that, hav­ing lost a child in a work­place in­jury. The im­pact on the whole com­mu­nity is al­most in­de­scrib­able.”

“Pull up and stop, think about what you’re do­ing, and how we should be do­ing it prop­erly.”

This story is the fi­nal of a c four-part se­ries spon­sored by the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment Of­fice of In­dus­trial Re­la­tions

PHOTO: FIONA WELSH

FARM SAFE: Work­place Health and Safety Queens­land agri­cul­ture unit man­ager Fiona O’Sul­li­van with Nel­son.

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