Safer Farms is reminding everyone using on farm vehicles to stay vigilant in the wake of a tragic spate of accidents.

At least six people were killed in work related accidents over January and February according to WorkSafe statistics.

Safer Farms General Manager Tony Watson says the number of fatalities needs to serve as a wakeup call for everyone operating on farm vehicles.

“If people dying on farm is the measure, 2020 has started badly, really badly,” he said.

“Every single death on farm so far in 2020 has been farm vehicle related. If we look over the last 10 years, we find over 80% of farm workplace deaths are vehicle related.”

There has also been a number of other farm fatalities this year involving vehicles which have not been ‘work related’ and not counted in WorkSafe statistics.  

On average over the last decade, 12 people die in on farm work related accidents every year.

However that number has crept up over the last five years, getting closer to 15 fatalities per year.

Watson is questioning what factors are contributing to the rise and says farmers need to understand STKY – the  ‘Stuff That Can Kill You’.

“Just because we’ve done a job hundreds of times, doesn’t mean we won’t get caught out. Often it’s a bunch of small things that aren’t necessarily a problem by themselves, but together they can trip up even the more experienced operators. When we get tired, we can make poor decisions.”

Driving quad bikes, side by sides, tractors and other on farm vehicles fortunately goes right most of the time.

But he says, this can lead to complacency and driving in ‘auto pilot’ mode.

“We need to remind ourselves that safety is not measured by the absence of accidents – safety is the presence of capacity and our ability to modify and adapt our behaviour with environmental changes going on around us.” 

 With farms being dynamic and potentially dangerous workplaces, operators need to be equipped with the skills to handle it when something goes wrong.

“We need to consciously think about how we can go about our work safely. This doesn’t mean signs, hi-vis and paperwork – too often we see these bum-covering responses to compliance as what farmers think the regulator is looking for.”

“To make a real difference, we need to accept that things don’t always go right. If we accept there is potential for things to go wrong, we need to make sure we’ve got things in place to keep us and our people from being killed or seriously hurt.”

Watson insists that along with making sure the operator is capable and the vehicle is in good nick – there are just three simple steps to follow that save lives.

On quad bikes, drivers should always wear a properly fitted helmet and have ROPS/safety frames fitted.

Always wear seatbelts in other farm vehicles, including tractors, side by sides and utes – especially if you’re going more than say 30kmph or if the vehicle is going somewhere tricky.

On side by sides or other ATV’s, the drivers and passenger should always wear helmets and seatbelts.

He also stresses the importance of putting decent padding on any roll frames, as hitting your head on the metal frame can also cause serious brain injury. 

“There’s no shame in hopping off and walking if you’re at all concerned about the situation you’re in, that’s better than taking the machine somewhere you might regret,” he says.

Watson is adamant this isn’t about telling others how to farm.

“Rather it’s about sharing some observations and learning from things that have gone wrong for someone else. We need to move the dial from a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude to ‘let’s do it right’.

Watson wants farmers to remain vigilant and for safety messages to be spread far and wide. 

“There’s been far too many tragedies this year and we need to do better and be better.”

 “Everyone needs to get home at the end of the day to their families, mothers, fathers, children, husbands and wives. That’s the bottom line.”