CHEMICAL training and farm safety around chemical use was a topical issue for the SafeFarms WA training day at the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) on Monday.
SafeFarms WA executive officer Maree Gooch led the three-hour interactive session with 15 attendees including broadacre and horticulture farmers, as well as representatives from agricultural colleges at Denmark and Narrogin.
“This is the first Chemical Safety Training course and we are going to run them once a month in Perth to start with, however if an organisation would like us to come and run them, we are more than happy to do it,” Ms Gooch said.
Alarming statistics were highlighted at the workshop including 800 deaths a year (90 in WA) that are linked to work-related cardiovascular disease from chemical exposure.
Ms Gooch said it was the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe workplace, train people and provide relevant information for them.
“We actually need to be aware of handling hazardous substances and how it can significantly affect our health also in the long term,” she said.
Currently there are 18 pieces of legislation that apply to farming organisations, particularly for occupational health and safety, which includes chemical safety on farms.
“I think chemicals are often a very important part of the farming business and if we don’t know what we don’t know we aren’t protecting ourselves, our future and our health,” Ms Gooch said.
“It’s the sins of the fathers, we all know someone who has been affected by chemicals in some way, so if we can protect ourselves just by wearing some personal protective equipment or knowing what to look for and prepare for that, we will be that step closer.”
Ms Gooch said people and family were the most important thing in a farming business and SafeFarms WA wanted the industry to get up to speed as easily as possible.
She said Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) were an important part of the training with attendees learning how to navigate their way through the 16 important points about each chemical.
The information talks about handling, storage, mixing instructions, emergencies and first aid, disposal, toxicological information and ecological information.
“When you use all hazardous substances you must follow the directions on the label and the SDSs,” Ms Gooch said.
Central Regional TAFE Merredin lecturer, SafeFarms WA vice chairwoman and Kellerberrin farmer Judi Forsyth, said there was legislation that farming businesses needed to follow and SafeFarms WA was looking at educating business owners on the safety procedures needed on farms.
Ms Forsyth runs a two-day certified course on farm safety and chemicals, which goes through details of SDSs and how farmers can protect themselves from chemical exposure.
“I think the next generation coming through is more aware of the safety aspects of farming and the matter is about looking after not only your staff but the people on the farm, so it could be your own children,” Ms Forsyth said.
There are a lot of people who haven’t realised the legislation around occupational health and safety on farms is governed by the Health and Safety Act.
Ms Forsyth said everyone else had to abide by these rules and farming businesses were no different.
“It’s the chain of responsibility for your staff and yourself and to have a safe workplace and we really encourage first aid and chemical training,” she said.
“We use them almost 12 months (chemicals) of the year, and even with livestock, people seem to think that because they are veterinary products they are safe.”
Ms Forsyth hoped people would take into consideration the priority of safety.
“Chemicals are a big issue, our workplace is unique because we live and sleep at the same place where we don’t get to go to work and come home from work, we are there all the time,” she said.
Ms Gooch said SafeFarms WA was in the process of planning its Farm Safety Week itinerary that will be held in the third week of July.