The 30-year evolution of farm safety

Farming has changed a lot during the past 30 years. The adoption of new technologies, the shift to more intensive livestock production, and a growing focus on sustainable farming practices have all helped Australian agriculture become more productive and sustainable.

Advancements and improvements in agriculture have also helped farmers like Simone, who raises Angus cattle and fat lambs, and grows crop cereals on her 2,600-acre property near Skipton, farm smarter and safer.

"My husband and I married in 1989 and bought a farm on the edge of the western district central highlands. We've been here ever since," says Simone.

Over the years, Simone's farming family have invested time, hard work and money into improving and growing their land, farming infrastructure and machinery.

"Farmers today are far savvier at investing in better equipment and yards instead of just going 'it'll be right' and putting the money in the bank," says Simone.

"We've spent money in the last couple of years re-fencing to be able to run stock more effectively and efficiently - because you've got to be able to keep livestock in where you want them and out of where you don’t want them."

"Added safety is a by-product of the improvements we've made."


"We're far more relaxed now that the sheep can’t get out. We’ve got more time and we don't rush to get to the dodgy bit of the fence before the sheep, which in the past would have put us in danger.

"We also designed and built new cattle yards, with a weaning yard, which is much better for me and means the cattle can't run off."

Simone and her husband Jeff work the farm together, and over time they've made things easier, more efficient, and safer for themselves.

"We're getting older and even if you're careful, injuries can happen and they are harder to get over, so we've had to change the way we farm."


"We bought a sheep handler so that Jeff doesn't have to handle the animals as much. We've found that if we invest in an improvement of some sort, it helps us in the long-term."

Another shift Simone has noticed is her family's approach to looking out for themselves and others on the farm.

"When we were younger, we had less farm, so we were together most of the time," says Simone. "You think before you do things now, the tractors are bigger and you're working alone more than before. Things like going down and out of the tractor carefully and always having a load on the front-end loader, and never walking under it. Whereas I probably did when I was younger because I thought 'nothing is going to happen to me – it happens to other people'."

During her time on the land, Simone says the most common safety incidents she’s heard of have involved vehicles or injuries caused by livestock.

"Vehicles rolling, motorbike accidents, getting kicked by a cow or taken out by a sheep in the yards are all too common."


"I had a near miss in the yards two years ago. I went the wrong way and didn’t shut the gate. I had my hand behind it when a young steer backed up on it. I thought my arm was broken but I got it out in time. I was lucky and I thought to myself 'I have to be more careful'."

"From that experience, I learnt that when you do something more than enough times it becomes a habit. But you need to ask yourself, 'is that habit a good habit? Or do I need to rethink how I do things?'"

Simone and her husband often work alone and put measures in place, like always having their mobile phones on them.

"When I'm on the tractor feeding the cattle, it can take up to six hours to get all that done. So you think about where your phone is."

"Jeff and I also have a bit of a chat about what we're doing each morning because if you let people know what you're doing, they can have an expectation of how long it's going to take, and can come looking for you if you're not back within that timeframe."

"Making it home is at the forefront of my mind when I'm making choices on the farm."


"If I've got to move some cattle, I’ll think to myself 'how am I going to keep myself safe?', and I might stand 10 feet further back because if it's muddy, I can't get out of the way quickly."

"You need to come home at night. Everyone's got someone that wants to see them."

"You've got a family, you've got a life to live, and there's nothing that replaces your health or your life."


With a lifetime of farming experience, Simone’s advice to fellow farmers is to not rush.

"You've got time. You might not think it, but you've got plenty of time to get stuff done. When you rush, you're not thinking, you're not focused enough and that's when bad things can happen."

"You've really got to put yourself first because if you don't have that, what have you got?"


Simone has shared her story as part of WorkSafe Victoria's 'It's never you, until it is' campaign, which promotes farm safety and highlights that injuries and death on farms are preventable.

Working alone is a contributing factor in the majority of farm workplace deaths.

For more strategies to stay safe