Working together to keep farms safe

When it comes to safety, dairy farmers Trish and Mark Hammond agree that prevention is better than cure – that farmers shouldn't wait for an incident to occur before thinking about safety.

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Published: 18 July 2022

The Hammonds have been farming together for 12 years, milking more than 1,000 cows across two properties in Labertouche.

Sharing their story in a WorkSafe as part of National Farm Safety Week, the Hammonds say a proactive visit from local WorkSafe inspector Michael Vanderzalm grew into a supportive relationship that brought with it productivity and safety benefits.

Introducing dairy farmers Trish and Mark Hammond

"It was a very positive experience we found, not intimidating, because we do know WorkSafe isn't there to shut us down, they're there to help us improve and to make things the safest we can," Mrs Hammond said.

"I've met Michael outside of inspections, at GippsDairy and TAFE events where he's speaking. Every time I learn something new and have been able to implement things in our business. I now feel comfortable enough to call him with any questions I have."

Mrs Hammond said she now understands the importance of inspectors turning up before a safety incident occurs.

"With the inspection there were things that came out of that that we needed to make improvements on, and Michael returned four weeks later to check we'd put all those things in place and to give further advice."

Mr Vanderzalm comes to farmers not only as an inspector with 17 years' experience, but also as someone who appreciates the specific challenges farmers may face when it comes to improving safety.

"My family has a beef property in South Gippsland, so I've got a love for agriculture and I just love dealing with farmers," he said.

"We're realists. We understand how farms work, and we’re here to help you operate your business safely."

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said fatalities on farms continue to occur at a rate higher rate than in other industries, with seven deaths in agriculture so far this year.

"We want to shift the common belief that a serious or fatal injury will never happen to you, your workers or your family," Dr Beer said.

A recent survey of 150 Victorian farmers shows that about half still believe these incidents are only happening to hobby or inexperienced farmers, but this is not the case.

"A workplace tragedy can happen to anyone who doesn't prioritise safety, regardless of how well they know their land and machinery," Dr Beer said.

As part of its proactive approach to reducing injuries and fatalities in agriculture, WorkSafe is hosting an online information session on Wednesday 27 July before visiting farms in the Cobden region in the coming months.

The webinar provides farmers with an opportunity to hear and seek safety advice in a relaxed environment, with WestVic Dairy and the Victorian Farmers Federation also available to share their knowledge.