Shit That Kills You.

What’s STKY on the farm?
STKY = Shit That Kills You.

If people dying on farm is the measure, 2020 started badly. Really badly. 

Every single death on farm in the first few months of 2020 was farm vehicle related. If we look over the last 10 years, we find over 80% of farm workplace deaths are vehicle related too.

It is not always clear if these are due to operator error or a problem with the machine, but either way it should be a massive wake up call to anyone using vehicles on farm.

Vehicles on farms are Shit That Kills You – no doubt about that

Work related fatalities on the farm have averaged around 12 people per year for the last decade, although nearer 15 people per year for the last five years. From the start of January to the end of February 2020, at least six people were killed at work on farms. That’s six just work-related deaths - not including on farm fatalities and injuries that happened while the victim ‘wasn’t working’.

What is going on?
Are farms becoming ‘more dangerous’ places to work?

Fortunately, things on farm do go right most of the time.

Perhaps this leads to some complacency or operating on ‘auto-pilot’ mode, but we need to remind ourselves that safety is not measured by the absence of accidents. Safety is the capacity and ability to modify our behaviour given changes going on around us.

Farms are dynamic workplaces – people need to modify and adapt their behaviour in response to changes in the environment. Just because we’ve done a job hundred’s of times before, 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. 

Understanding that farm work can be dangerous  means we need to consciously think about how we can go about our work safely.

This doesn’t mean signs, hi-vis and paperwork – farmers are quick to point out these things alone don’t make farms safer. Too often however, we see these used as bum-covering responses to compliance and 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, then we can make sure we’ve got things in place to keep us and our people from being killed or seriously hurt.

Key messages for farmers around vehicles (STKY)

Make sure you have the following things in place when you’re operating vehicles on farm. 

After making sure the the vehicle is in good nick, the operator is trained/experienced/competent, and they’re confident to take a particular route, it makes sense to:

– Always wear a properly fitted helmet and have ROPS/safety frame fitted on quad bikes.
– Always wear seatbelts in other farm vehicles if you’re going somewhere tricky, or if there is any chance of doing more than say 30kmph. This includes tractors, utes and side-by-sides.

– Use seatbelts and wear a helmet when in a side-by-side, or at least put some decent padding on the roll frame – hitting your head on the metal frame can also cause serious damage.

– There’s no shame in hopping off and walking if you’re at all concerned about the situation you’re in – it’s better than taking the machine somewhere you might regret.

None of this is about telling farmers how to farm – it’s about sharing some observations and learning from things that have gone wrong for someone else. We need to move the dial from “she’ll be right” to “let’s do it right”.

ACC has also recognised the benefits of rollover protection on quad bikes by helping with the cost of installation – see here for more.

There are a few approved options – check them out and see which model meets your requirements. 

Read the stories and share stories with people on farm and together, we can help make farms safer places for everyone.