Crime should not be your only safety concern

When we speak about safety on farms, many South Africans will probably automatically think ‘crime’, but ensuring the safety of your property, staff and family entails far more than farm security, writes Andries Wiese

Crime should not be your only safety concern
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The Better Health Channel, with the Victoria State Government and National Centre for Farmer Health in Australia, has put together a list of common hazards on farms that is equally applicable to South Africa:

  • Animals – injuries inflicted by animals can include bites, kicks, crushing, ramming and
    trampling. Then there’s also the transmission of zoonotic diseases.
  • Chemicals – pesticides and herbicides can cause injuries such as burns, respiratory illnesses, or poisoning.
  • Confined spaces – silos, water tanks, milk vats and manure pits may contain unsafe atmospheres, which can cause poisoning or suffocation.
  • Electricity – dangers include faulty switches, machinery, and overhead power lines.
  • Heights – falls from ladders, rooftops, silos and windmills are a major cause of injury.
  • Machinery – hazards include tractors without roll-over protection structures, power take-off shafts, chainsaws, augers, motorbikes, and machinery with unguarded moving parts.
  • Noise pollution – noise from livestock, machinery and guns can affect your hearing.
  • Vehicles – crashes or falls from motorbikes, two-wheel and quad bikes, tractors, bakkies and horses can result in major injuries.
  • Water – drowning can occur in as little as 5cm of water. Dams, lakes, ponds, rivers, channels, tanks, drums and creeks are all hazards, and young children are particularly at risk.
  • Weather – hazards include sunburn, heatstroke, dehydration and hypothermia.

These dangers seem so obvious when listed as above, but we do not necessarily think of them as we move around our properties and allow our children and workers to move around uninhibited.

Mitigating the risk 
Protecting your family and staff against these dangers starts with awareness. When last did you take a walk around your farm (or a drive) to identify and assess potential hazards?

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Most farmers will do regular checks on fences, count animals and assess crops. This is not the same as a proper survey of farm safety.

If you have young children, create a safe and contained play area close to the house and away from hazards. Also make sure that everyone on the farm is properly educated on the possible risks.

Machinery and tools present a risk and must be kept in good repair. Dangerous items such as machinery, firearms and chemicals must be stored appropriately. Find ways to improve safety, such as fitting roll-over protection to tractors and replacing dangerous and dated
chemicals with less toxic varieties.

Quad bikes are not all-terrain vehicles and should be used in line with safety recommendations. Always use appropriate safety equipment, such as machinery guards and shields, helmets, gloves, goggles, or breathing apparatus.

The most important thing, however, is to consult with and discuss safety with workers and family members. Everybody needs to be on the same page and agree on a workable safety plan, including ways to identify hazards and minimise potential risks.

Make sure everyone understands and follows these safety procedures, especially children.

Respond swiftly
If something does happen, make sure you have at least the basics in place to respond swiftly:

  • A suitable and wellstocked first aid kit.
  • At least two people on the farm must be trained in first aid.
  • A list of emergency contact details must always be at hand and accessible to everyone on the farm.
  • Plan a route to the nearest emergency medical care facility.
  • Make sure your family and staff understand what to do in an emergency.

You are responsible for what happens on your property. You may have the luxury of a safety officer, but in most instances, you, the farmer, are the safety officer on your property.

Maintaining a safe environment need not be an onerous task if it is planned and executed correctly. Not doing it is not only negligent, but downright thoughtless.

Andries Wiese is head of the Agri Division at Hollard Insurance.

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