Farm safety plays a critical role in the health and wellbeing of farmers, their families, crops and animals.
Use this quick guide to help you discover some of the most common safety hazards on a farm and tips on how to address them.
Livestock can be unpredictable and aggressive, especially while yarding and, in the breeding, calving or lambing season
Cattle can be dangerous when scared or excited. Handling animals calmy is safer for you and the cattle
Male animals (e.g. bulls, ram and stallions) can be very aggressive during mating season and need to be handled with care at all times
Horses are common cause of injury, especially for children
Dogs can bite people, especially young children. Children need to learn that farm dogs are not pets.
- Make sure all workers are trained in how to handle livestock and horses.
- Keep sheds, yards and equipment in good repair
- Know you animals behaviour and watch them at all times when you work with them
- Make sure helmets are worn when riding horses
- Be careful with visitors and bystanders to farms
Chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fuels are commonly handled on farms. They can cause serious health problems if used unsafely
Chemicals residues are easily moved from the farm into the house on clothing and shoes
Chemical exposure may cause both acute (short term) and long term health issues.
- Treat all chemicals with caution and follow instructions carefully
- Wear protective clothing, cover exposed skin and wear gloves, goggles and a face mask if required
- Store chemicals safely, out of children’s reach and away from seeds and fertilisers
Around 20 children under 15 years of age die each year as a result of injuries on Australian farms. Many more are injured
Four wheel bikes (sometimes called ATVs are the most common cause of injury for children aged 5-14 on farms
Drowning is the cause of around 35%-40% of all on child deaths on the farm. Children under five are at greatest risk
- Make your farm safer for children
- Make a safe fenced area for children to play
- Make sure children wear seatbelts and restraints in cars, utes and trucks
- Don’t let children ride on tractors or quad bikes (ATVs) without supervision. Don’t let them ride in the back of utes
- Teach older children safe use of farm bikes and four wheelers
- Make children wear helmets when riding bikes and horses
- Supervise children around the farm and near dams and waterways
Electrocution on farms is often due to contact with overhead power lines or working with frayed leads in the workshop
You do not even have to touch a power line to be electrocuted as the power can arc over small distances
Harvest time on farms is particularly risky as tall machinery moves under and around overhead powerlines.
- Check cords and switches regularly, always get a qualified electrician to do your electrical work.
- Take extra care when moving farm equipment near power lines
- Look up and avoid power lines
- Disconnect the power, if you can do so safely, before you touch or try to help a victim of electric shock
- Call triple zero (000) immediately
Falls are the most common cause of farm injuries for people over 55
Falls can result in serious injury, including admission to hospital or permanent care.
- Put extra grab rails on trucks, headers, tractors, steps, cattle years etc.
- Apply non-slip tape or matting to make surfaces less slippery
- Use a safety harness if you have to work in high areas
- Minimise the need to work at heights
- Make sure areas around buildings are well lit
- Clean up the yard and paddocks
- Wear shoes or boots that fit well and have grip soles
- Exercise to stay strong and flexible
- Always be alert to risks
Basic first aid training is essential for all farm workers.
First aid skills can save lives
Farmers have higher injury rates than most other industries.
- Encourage all farm workers and family members to have first aid training
- Keep well stocked first aid kits around the farm (in workshops, on tractors, in the ute etc.)
- Call triple zero (000) in an emergency even if you think help is too far away. You will get advice over the phone that may save your life
Hot weather places extra strain on your body
Farmers working outside, or in sheds which have poor cooling methods, are at particular risk
Older people or young children have more difficultly coping with hot weather
There are three stages of heat stress: heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke (a medical emergency).
- Drink plenty of water
- Try to stay indoors during the hottest part of the day
- Develop a heat stroke prevention plan
- Call triple zero (000) if someone with you is not physically coping with the heat
Farm machinery is associated with approximately 35% of traumatic deaths on farms in Australia. There are also many injuries
Tractors are the most common cause of death cased by rollovers and runovers
Other causes of injury include uncovered moving parts like unguarded chains, sprockets, pulleys, pumps, harvesting machines and augers. Hand tools such as secateurs and angle grinders are also high risks
Found wheel motorbikes are a leading cause of death and injury on farms and should only be ridden by experience or trained operators.
- Make sure everyone is trained to use farm machinery safely
- Have properly fitted guards and always use them
- Use the park brake every time you stop even on flat ground
- Keep machinery well maintained
- Use a qualified mechanic to check your machinery
Manual handling is part of farming and injuries can happen easily
Strain injuries can keep farm workers away from work for weeks at a time
Injuries can happen while lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, lowering, holding equipment, moving hay or handling stock or restraining animals.
- Keep the load close to your body and lift with you thigh muscles
- Organize your work area to reduce the amount of bending, twisting and stretching required
- Plan ahead. Consider the safest possible ways to lift, carry, hold, lower, push and pull anything
Many farmers have some hearing damage. This is mainly from not wearing ear protection when using tractors, machinery and firearms
More than 60% of farmers have significant hearing loss
Some people who are exposed to excessive noise develop tinnitus. This causes a constant ringing sound in the ears
Our hearing is less acute as we age, wearing ear protection when around loud noise will help protect your hearing
Most hearing loss can be prevented but it cannot be cured.
- Provide appropriate ear protection like ear plus or ear muffs
- Make sure ear protection is worn correctly
- Limit daily exposure to noise and rotate tasks
- Check the noise (decibel) levels when buying new equipment
- Have a hearing test. Use Telscreen, a free national hearing screening service. Phone 1800 826 500 (free call)
Quad bikes, sometimes called four wheeler bikes or all terrain vehicles (ATVs) are not safe for use in all terrains
Quad bikes are not stable and have been involved in many injuries and deaths mostly in rollover accidents
Inexperienced riders and not using protective equipment like helmets are the most common causes of injuries and death involving quad bikes
- Make sure all riders are trained and follow safety precautions
- Don’t carry passengers on an ATV, if affects stability and control
- Follow manufacturers instructions if you are carry extra loads like sprays or hay bales as they greatly affect stability
- Use a ute where possible, it’s safer than a four wheeler
Skills & training:
Being aware of safety procedures and using them will save lives
Accidents often occur when people are tired. Have regular breaks and be extra vigilant at the end of a long day
Farm safety checks can help you identify risks and training needs
Updating your skills and undertaking extra training will make you a safer, more productive and more profitable farmer in the long run.
- Brush up on your skills regularly. Don’t assume you know it all.
- Set a good example – use safety equipment and protective gear
- Make sure all farm workers, including contractors are properly trained and understand all safety procedures
- Conduct a farm safety audit
Silos, Tanks & Pits:
Silos, tanks, pits and other enclosed structures present a hazard to farmers and children
A person can be drawn under moving grain or fertiliser in a silo within seconds.
- Make sure all ladders are above child height and fitted with a device to prevent child access
- Follow proper safety procedures when you work in any confined space
- Never work alone in confined spaces
Farmers often work alone
Some jobs should not be done along. For example: tasks involving high powered equipment, toxic or flammable chemicals, or confused spaces such as silos
If you are injured it could be hours before someone becomes worried about you, even longer before they find you
- Make sure you are trained for the job you are about to go out and do alone
- Let someone know where you are going and when you intend to return
- Take a mobile, pager or two way radio and keep in touch
- Have regular check in times
Up to 20% of farm injuries presenting to hospital emergency departments are caused by farm maintenance work
Eye and hand injuries are very common
Use the right personal protective equipment (PPE) in the workshop. For example, earmuffs, safety glasses or gloves
- Keep the workshop tidy, clean up spills and use non slip flooring
- Have a look at the design and layout of your workshop and discuss how to improve use of the space with everyone who uses the workshop
- Keep children and visitors out of the workshop