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Smart farm safety
By DAVID EAST
N average someone is killed in a farm-
related accident in Australia every
week of the year -- it is a gruesome sta-
An even more gruesome statistic is that up
to three people a day, every day of the year,
suffer some form of injury as a result of a farm
The widely-held perception of farming as a
healthy lifestyle is in reality a myth, consider-
ing the diversity of hazards that landowners,
farmers and farm workers face on an almost
daily basis. It is variously reported that mobile
mechanical equipment involving the use of
tractors, motor cycles and all terrain vehicles
(ATVs), other machinery, chemicals, grain and
stock handling, electricity and fire account for
the majority of on-farm accidents.
Most on-farm fatalities and/or serious acci-
dents on today's modern farms involve work-
ing with a tractor or an ATV.
Other on-farm activities where fatalities
and/or serious accidents occur far too fre-
quently involve the use of external power dri-
ves, working with spraying machines and
handling toxic chemicals, using grain han-
dling equipment, post hole diggers, chainsaws
and in workshops around high voltage elec-
tricity wires and cables using power tools.
Tractors generally have a relatively high cen-
tre of gravity because of a required ground
clearance. Add an implement and a hazard can
A trailed implement will tend to raise the
front of the tractor and under certain condi-
tions and with a heavy load, make it back flip.
A mounted implement at work is to a degree
a lesser hazard, but when raised it shifts the
centre of gravity upwards and rearwards creat-
ing a less stable situation, particularly on
It should always be remembered that most
accidents can be avoided with thought and
Farm safety is always up to you
ATVs are extremely useful but only safe in the
hands of experienced operators.
Dressing for the occasion crucial
OPERATOR safety must be paramount when
handling, using and storing chemicals.
Every chemical label should carry instructions
on the minimum protective clothing that opera-
tors should wear when handling chemicals and
doing the spraying job.
Operators should cover as much of the body
as possible, use washable fabric or waterproof
Wear trouser legs outside rubber boots --
never use leather boots or gloves or cloth gloves
because they absorb chemicals and can provide
a constant source of contamination.
Gloves should be unlined and worn inside the
Hard or washable hats, goggles, spray helmets
and face shields should also be worn.
Choose and wear the correct type of respira-
tor with the correct cartridge and replace the
An air-conditioned tractor cabin will reduce a
spray operators exposure to chemicals, but most
paper type elements will not completely prevent
chemical fumes entering. If possible these
should be replaced with an activated charcoal
It is important to understand that chemicals
can enter the body in four
• Oral (drinking), splashes
or eating or smoking spray-
• By cleaning or blowing
blocked nozzles with the
• Inhalation by breathing
in spray droplets, fumes or
dust -- this hazard is great-
est when chemicals are
mixed in enclosed build-
• Dermal -- absorption
through the skin -- this is
the most common hazard and the risk increases
with perspiration or when the skin is broken.
Most accidents with chemicals are the result
of spillage of liquid concentrates or dust from
powder concentrates, generally occuring during
measuring out and preparation of the solutions.
Filling and mixing are probably the major
causes of accidental splashing of chemicals.
If accidental dousing with any chemical
occurs, wash the affected area thoroughly with
soap and water, change all clothing, and wash
again before eating and drinking.
When storage of unused chemicals is neces-
sary, they should always be kept in original
labelled and registered containers.
All chemicals should be stored in locked cup-
boards or sheds, and herbicides should be stored
separately from insecticides and fungicides,
For the disposal of empty metal, glass or
moulded plastic chemical containers, the follow-
ing procedures should be adopted:
• After use, rinse containers three times and
add the rinsings to the mix
tank. Containers can con-
tain minute amounts of
chemical even after triple
rinsing and should never be
used for any other purpos-
• After rinsing, pierce or
crush the used containers.
• Take crushed contain-
ers to an approved tip or
receiving depot or bury
them deep underground.
Cover up with protective clothing
Reduce chance of chemical inhalation
Store chemicals securely and dispose
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