So did I pass the assessment? Following farm safety checklists to understand pesticide risk reduction using an actor-network theory approach.


Introduction: Farmers are responsible for workplace safety which includes family, employees, contactors, visitors and themselves. Tragically farming injuries, illness and fatalities continue to occur in Australia. Despite a plethora of accessible farm safety self-assessment checklists that are designed to support farmers to achieve a safe workplace the rate of on farm fatalities has remained consistently unchanged over the last decade. Little is known about how farm safety checklists are used by farmers and remains allusive to those who create and make them available.

Materials and Methods: Using an actor-network theory informed ethnography, a farm safety self-assessment checklist is traced to a cropping farm where a range of herbicides are used including diquat dibromide and paraquat, and insecticides including chlorpyrifos and fipronil. The purpose is to understand the checklists’ role in influencing farm safety culture, specifically around the use of these pesticides and pesticide application, storage and PPE.

Results: Considering the origin of the checklist and how it crosses a university, workplace regulators, farm machinery, and legislation, this method shows where power and authority is held amongst these unrelated groups. Checklists are designed as farm safety culture mediators but this depends on the farmer who holds power until a fatality or severe injury occurs shifting this power to law and legislation.

Conclusions: So did I pass? Maybe, but there’s no grade. The checklist mediates safer pesticide practices when it is used by farmers to exert control over the health and safety of every person on the farm.