HANDS up who’s done something on a farm with tools or machinery and said “S#!t! That was close”!
Now: hands up who just said “S#!t” but can’t show their hand, because they don’t have one any more?
You have to consider that our relaxed rural larrikinism can rip off your hand, break your back, kill you, write your car off and god forbid, catch the attention of an OH&S inspector.
But what am I saying? “She’ll be right”!
Picture this: I’ve a mate who’s visiting the farm. I’ve just finished work, we’ve grabbed a beer but I forgot to feed the sheep on the block down the road.
With beer in hand, we hop on the quad bike, nip down the driveway - out onto the road and sneak next door. I’m cruising to a stop when my mate has a chuckle, looking at the ‘ATV warning’ and little picture on the body of the bike: “You realised we just broke all three of those rules... at once!?”
Drinking alcohol with an extra passenger on a public road. I just needed to be under 16 for the manufacturer's nightmare to be complete. We both laughed, as if it was an achievement, how jovial to have broken the three rules - even more amusing as it involved grog.
Now before you jump to conclusions, my point is around our response, not the act - odds are I’d survive it again!
We have an attitude, and I wonder why we applaud those things. It’s the same reason you smirk at your friend when she drove home ‘well-over’ after a party and parked in a bush; it’s the same reason I feel like a tool when putting on PPE and it’s the same reason we laughed about the time I gaffer-taped a ladder to the hay forks on the loader, climbed up on the lot with a chainsaw and took out some tree limbs so the header could get through.
We’ve all got these insane stories, usually with happy endings, but jeez there’s a few that aren’t! I’m just lucky I had gaffer tape as next were the more traditional options - baling twine or fencing wire.
But what book can you throw at me? I can hear the booming voice of that infamous ex-premier of Victoria, Jeff Kennett. His response to the media hype around introducing regulations that could’ve stopped a young man in Melbourne being killed by standing on top of a train and riding it rather unsuccessfully into a tunnel was something like, “you can’t legislate against stupidity”.
Perhaps the good feeling we get is that primeval spurt of adrenalin following a close-call. It makes you a bit excited, feel good - you’ve had a win.
Farming has the highest fatality rate of any industry in Australia, and we’re consecutively in the top four for injuries across all states, manufacturing and construction being the top two.
I bet you we’re number one. Every time you cut your finger, ‘do your back’, tweak a shoulder on a building site, or in a factory, you report it to an OH&S person, where everything is recorded. Recording rainfall and weight gains for us is so much more important than the time I gave myself a shot of 5 in 1 in the yards.
We never tell anyone and all have a list a mile long!
I’m sure the state OH&S bodies know we’re at the top, and I hope they’re turning a blind eye... there are enough rules and restrictions once we’re out that front gate let alone me having to slip on a high-vis vest when dad reverses the tractor out of the shed.
Alternatively we have to be vigilant of the facts: most people know of someone seriously injured or dead because of a farming accident.
So think of them, think of me trembling on my ladder - or think of the farmer that couldn’t raise his hand (as I’m sure you so willingly did) at the start of my article. Because often, “She won’t be right”.
Sam Trethewey is a third generation farmer from Tasmania, now based in Victoria. Sam's message is 'think clearly, get muddy': inviting everyone to be clearer in and on farming by rolling up their sleeves, learning and taking action.