Farming remains one of the most hazardous occupations in Australia, with recent data indicating approximately 50-60 deaths occurring on farms annually.

Agriculture operates within a diverse work environment. Unique due to factors such as geography, diverse machinery and equipment use, animal handling, and changeable climatic conditions, all of which can vary on a day to day basis.

Asthma on farms

Asthma is a condition of inflammation and spasm of the airways, which can be triggered by a range of factors.

Asthma may be an immediate response to grain dust inhalation, or may be delayed for several hours, and can reoccur for several successive nights following exposure.

Asthma can be life threatening if left untreated. Symptoms of asthma include – wheezing, laboured breathing and coughing.

Resources available –


Noise injury prevention

Noise injury and hearing loss is a significant problem in the Australian farming community. Hearing loss sustained from noise injury, can have disabling personal and social consequences for the affected person and their family. Research has shown that around two-thirds of farmers have a measurable hearing loss, or have on average, hearing levels 10 to 15 years worse than that of the rest of the population.

Noise injury in farmers occurs from prolonged exposure to on-farm noise hazards such as tractors, chainsaws, firearms. Damage can be caused by prolonged and cumulative effects of noise over 85 dB over many years; or by instant trauma associated with peak noise levels over 140 dB . Exposure to excessive noise levels without protection, represent an unacceptable risk to the hearing health of farming families. 

The Noise Injury Prevention Strategy for the Australian Farming Community was developed through AgHealth Australia  on behalf of Farmsafe Australia, as a framework to address these issues, based on the research findings.   A number of research reports, articles have been produced by ACAHS, contributing to action on this issue (see NFIDC reports and publications). 

Summary information for farmers based on this research is provided in:

Rural Noise Injury Factsheet

Farm Noise and Hearing Loss Pamphlet

Shooting Pamphlet

The Better Hearing for Farm Families Project –

AgHealth Australia undertook this community-based Project in three NSW communities, using the framework provided by the Noise Injury Prevention Strategy.  The project was funded through the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, and aimed to:
• Improve awareness of noise injury and hearing health  strategies 
• Improve access to services offering:
– advice on noise injury prevention and hearing health
– audiometric screening / testing 
– services and devices for the hearing impaired 
• Improve networking of services within each community
A report on this Project will be available shortly, to assist other communities implement similar noise injury prevention projects in their area.

Hearing screening and services – For information on local hearing services, contact local Community Health Centre or look under “hearing services” in the the Yellow Pages*

A free and nationally available telephone hearing screening service is available for farmers and others through Telscreen, an Australian Hearing initiative.  Phone 1800 826 500 (Freecall).

For those who are hearing impaired, the National Relay Service provides a free telephone relay service for people who are having difficulty hearing on the phone. Go to www.relayservice.com.au for details.

For further information please contact:
Kerri-Lynn Peachey
Phone: 02 6882 1486
Email: kerrilynn.peachey@sydney.edu.au


Falls injury prevention

The Australian Farming Community is an ageing workforce, and farmers over the age of 55 years are at greater risk of falls injury.

North West Farmsafe in NSW and AgHealth Australia has completed the Preventing Falls in Older Farmers project which was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing. The project aim was to work with older farmers to reduce the incidence of falls injuries on farm, with a view to developing guidelines and information resources for other farming communities across Australia.

A series of workshops were held at Bingara, Pilliga, Nundle, Guyra, Bonalbo and Goulburn. The participating older farmers were able to discuss both the issues of sustaining falls on farm and also to consider possible resources  to identify an individuals level of risk in sustaining a fall. Options as to what farmers should do to actively address their falls risk were also identified.

Resource: 

Preventing Falls for Older Farmers

For further information please contact:

Kerri-Lynn Peachey
Phone: 02 6882 1486

Email: kerrilynn.peachey@sydney.edu.au 


Pesticides and human health

Data which describes the full, or even partial, extent of human health effects from exposure to pesticides is difficult to source data due to potential long latency periods for chronic illness, the difficulty in diagnosis, the non-specific nature of pesticide health effects and the lack of effective monitoring systems.

Pesticides and Adverse Health Outcomes in Australia – chartbook is available in Research Reports section under Reports and Publications Header. 


Tractor and machinery

Injury and death associated with machinery operation on Australian Farms has been recognised as a key issue for farm safety for many years.

In 1999 the National Farm Machinery Safety Reference Group was established and developed the first national strategy to actively seek practical resolutions to reduce the prevalence of deaths involving farm machinery.

In the time since, project work and resource development has continued. Please see listing of relevant documents below.

Safe Tractor Operation

Tractor Safety Factsheet 

Machine Injuries on Australian Farms – Chartbook 

Farm Machinery Guarding

Work Health and Safety resources including induction, training and hazard checklists are available within the Resources for Farmers section. CLICK HERE

Quads

Since 2001 over 230 Australians have died in quad related incidents.*

*See latest reports in the Research Reports section.

Quads are now the leading cause of non-intentional injury death on Australian farms (outranking tractors). Deaths are evenly distributed between rollovers, where asphyxiation/ crush injury are common and non-rollovers, where the victim is flung onto a hard surface as a result of a quad bike crash. Almost 9 out of every 10 rollover deaths occur on a farm.

Farmers are urged to think carefully about their use of quads taking into account the safety risks. In a majority of cases, quads are not fit for purpose for the tasks required by farmers and more suitable vehicles should be used.

Farmers who are employers or in control of the farm workplace have responsibility under work health and safety law to provide safe systems of work for workers and visitors to the workplace, including the operation of quads.

The ongoing work of the Centre for quad safety will seek to promote the use of more suitable vehicles. If quad bikes are still to be used as the vehicle of choice, they should be fitted with a suitably tested crush protection device.

The full range of control measures can be found in the Safety Guide; Safety of Quads and Side by Side Vehicles on Australian Farms

The Centre will continue negotiations with relevant partners in relation to guidelines, risk assessments and regulatory intervention.

New Resources:

Media Resources

Reports and Guidelines

Other resources available:

Training:

The following link is a list of Registered Training Organisations that can provide accredited quad bike training in compliance with AHCHMOM212A. Participants who are assessed successfully will achieve the nationally accredited unit of competency.

Older Resources:

Media Resources

Reports and Guidelines


Workshop safety

People working in the farm workshop are exposed to risk of injury and illness associated with a range of hazards. Up to 20 percent of farm injuries presenting to hospital emergency departments are caused by farm maintenance work. More than 30 percent of these are eye injuries and a further 30 percent are hand injuires.

Resources:

Health and Safety in the Farm Workshop Guideline: Click on Resources for Farmers.

Workshop Safety factsheet


Zoonooses

Zoonoses are animal diseases that can be passed onto humans. Zoonoses such as Q Fever, cryptosporidiosis and leptospirosis, affect thousands of people each year in Australia.

Those at high risk include abattoir workers, veterinarians, shearers and farmers who have regular and close contact with animals. Symptoms can be mild gastro-intestinal or flu-like illnesses – or can progress to serious illnesses with long term health affects.

For general health and safety information on the more common zoonotic diseases affecting farmers, click on the factsheet below.   If you have concerns about your own health or more specific inquiries, seek the advice of  a Rural  General Practitioner, or the Public Health Unit of a Rural Area Health Service.

Zoonoses Factsheet