Campaign strives for less harm on farms

When it comes to workplace safety, Matt and Alli Reid leave nothing to chance. The couple protect everyone on their dairy farm just as they would their own family.


The Reids run Otway Milk, a 688-hectare farm at Carlisle River, south-west of Colac, milking about 700 cows and employing five permanent full-time workers.

In sharing their story as part of WorkSafe's farm safety campaign, Mr Reid said their strong safety culture, which includes a comprehensive training and induction program, regular safety meetings and the safe separation of children from farming operations, was a far cry from his own upbringing on a dairy farm at Rochester.

Unlike his own childhood, the Reid children maintained a safe distance from cows, equipment and machinery until they reached working age, when they were brought into the business with the same training as any other worker.

"Our kids have had such a different experience to what I had growing up on a farm. But at the end of the day, we know that they understand the dangers of the farm, and that’s our job as parents," Mr Reid said.

"We also know that as business owners, we're responsible for the safety of everyone on our property. And sometimes for us that includes one of our employee's children," Mrs Reid said.

To help working parents in an industry where early starts and remoteness make childcare difficult, the Reids created a children’s room attached to the dairy. It includes an outdoor play space and indoor area with a window so children remain visible and can communicate with their parents if needed.

As WorkSafe's confronting farm safety campaign – It's never you, until it is – makes a return across television, radio, print and digital media, it is encouraging more farmers like the Reids to have potentially life-saving conversations about safety in agriculture.

"One of the things we learnt along the way is not everything has to cost money. There are examples where all it has cost is a five-minute conversation to find a better way," Mr Reid said.

Campaign tracking data shows that 81 per cent of farmers surveyed recalled the campaign and more than half were prompted to have conversations about safety.

The latest campaign burst again uses emotional storytelling to drive home the simple message that deaths and serious injuries can happen to anyone who doesn’t prioritise safety.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said attitudes towards safety within the agriculture industry needed to continue shifting.

"A common mindset among farmers is that a serious or fatal injury will never happen to you, your workers or your family," Dr Beer said.

"But the devastating statistics show otherwise."

Agriculture employs just two per cent of the state's workforce, yet it accounts for about 14 per cent of workplace fatalities.

Tragically, three people have been killed in on-farm workplace incidents this year. This takes the number of farm deaths to 26 since 2019, including two children aged four and under.

"We're here to say farm deaths and injuries are preventable, not inevitable. A focus on safety can prevent families and communities losing loved ones," Dr Beer said.

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