The agricultural sector is one of Australia’s most important industries, contributing around $60 billion to the economy and employing 1.6 million people. Agricultural workers have a pivotal role to play in the lives of the everyday Australian while keeping the industry moving forward. Yet with an average of about 2980 serious claims per year, it’s essential that businesses are committed to their employee’s safety and wellbeing.
While the dangers of operating machinery around your farm might already seem obvious, the right technology will enable a stronger and more proactive risk management approach.
The risks of poor visibility
Irrigation, pumps, tractors and harvesters are all crucial for working in agriculture – they’re also extremely dangerous as workers may have a limited scope of view. This could cause a serious incident or even be fatal. For example, a recent incident occurred when a ride on mower rolled over on a steep slope, crushing another worker.
In 2017, Safe Work Australia reported that 27 per cent of worker fatalities were in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry. The sector also accounts for over 75 per cent of the industry’s workplace deaths, making it the most fatal in the country. This trend has continued in 2019 - there have already been six reported fatalities this year to date. These statistics need to change.
Preventing an incident
While doing physical checks around your farm helps you to spot any obvious risks, there are plenty that you won’t be able to see – and they’re much harder to protect against. Educating your employees on the dangers of working with heavy equipment is a good first step, but to create a truly safe environment, you need a system that addresses all risks, no matter how transparent.
For example, assets with irregular service history and no records present a huge risk to your workers and your crops because they’re unlikely to be operating safely. A machine that’s leaking or has a cracked protection shield puts workers in danger, while anything with moving parts is in danger of crushing or unexpectedly striking someone.
Research shows that the most common causes of injury in agriculture are being hit by moving objects or falling over. Rollovers in tractors and other vehicles are also a major risk, so all vehicles should be maintained with a preventative maintenance schedule to ensure they’re able to me driven safely.
Poorly maintained equipment could also go on to damage or poison crops, waste fuel supplies and cost your business money in the long term. Integrating new technology and monitoring your assets with telematics is an effective way of maximising equipment use while protecting everyone working on your farm.
How telematics protects your employees
With fleet management software installed across your vehicles and equipment, you can take an active approach to improving working conditions. Telematics provides a detailed look into how heavy vehicles and powered assets run, so you can keep track of any concerning trends like dips in efficiency, equipment fault codes, excessive fuel consumption, tyre pressure issues or even poor driver behaviour. This data can be an indication of unsafe machinery that requires maintenance.
With recent changes to Chain of Responsibility regulations, it’s also critical to understand what elements of the supply chain you’re responsible for. For example, if you’re present while goods or livestock are being loaded into a vehicle, you need to ensure everything is being loaded safely and securely. Likewise, making sure drivers aren’t speeding on your property, or maintaining paving and land to avoid rollovers, will fall to management. Access to telematics data gives you the assurance that safety processes are being followed and shows regulators that you’re taking safety and compliance seriously.
Overall, technology in agriculture contributes to a safe and productive farm environment by reducing risks that could cause serious injury. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure a high level of safety on your worksite – and this task is a lot easier with the right technology.
To find out more about how you can make the most of your heavy equipment and keep workers safe, click here.