New benchmark for

24 Apr, 2002 10:00 PM
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By CHELSEA CORMELL

ON-FARM safety has taken its biggest leap forward this week with the launch of a detailed report into injury prevention.

Deemed by WA safety experts as the benchmark for all future improvements to farm safety, the report was considered the most detailed of its kind ever produced.

Known as "Shaping the future", it divided injury and fatality rates according to production of specific commodities, as well causal factors, types of injury, location and age groups, among others.

Farmsafe WA chair Tony Hiscock said previous attempts to improve on-farm safety had been hampered by a lack accurate information.

He said in contrast to most other industries, WA's agriculture safety records had continued to worsen, with two fatalities in the past two weeks alone, but the new data made it impossible to continue to ignore the problem.

"I believe the industry has been complacent for far too long," he said.

National farm injury data centre director Richard Franklin, who officially presented the report to Mr Hiscock, said farm accidents had cost WA's workers compensation scheme more than $63m in the past five years.

But the cost was far greater once repair to machinery, psychological impact, deaths, unrecorded injury and lost working time was added to the equation.

Annually WA recorded nine deaths, with a further 427 hospitalised due to farm injury, he said.

Farmsafe executive director Lyn Frager said that previously accidents could be viewed as an "act of god" but solid patterns emerged once data was recorded.

"Until we had this information farmers could walk away from the problem," she said.

A major finding of the report was disparity between agencies attempting to improve safety, with little or no collaboration occurring among major players including the agriculture, health and education departments, Worksafe, Farmsafe WA, general practitioners and producers.

Funding levels were found to be inadequate.

Recommendations from the report included injury prevention programs aimed at vehicles, tractors, tree felling and children drowning, which were the biggest causes of farm injury.

Reduction of workers compensation claims needed to focus on specific industries, animal handling and machinery, while educational programs needed to address respiratory diseases caused by farm dust.

Vineyards, tree crops, vegetable crops, greenhouses and the sheep industry during dipping and jetting needed priority attention in the handling of pesticides.

In discussion after the launch Farmsafe was seen as the linchpin in the path forward, with further discussions planned in one months time.

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