Small acres and farm safety: What are the risks?

A rural lifestyle can have a certain appeal. Free from many of the constraints of urban living and close neighbours, many people embrace the open space and lifestyle.

However there are is one hard reality that simply cannot be ignored – farm safety.

The numbers aren’t on your side

Farms and rural acres are dangerous places and the studies back this up.

While many of these relate to larger, commercial farms, these risks can still apply to small farms and lifestyle blocks.

Lack of experience and training by small landowners may even increase these risks, so please take farm safety seriously.

So what are the risks?

There are a few clear-cut areas of risk on farms as follows.

Vehicles and machinery. While you may not have the full-blown commercial farming set-up, you may still have risks on your land from vehicles and machinery. Paddock bashers, ride-on lawnmowers, small tractors can still cause injury and death.

You should also consider the impact of hearing loss from using machinery and wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

Quad bikes. Since 2001 there have been more than 240 deaths from quad bike accidents, and many more serious injuries. Find out more about quad bike safety.

Animals. Livestock can be big, bulky and unpredictable. Moving, loading, drafting and caring for livestock can all be dangerous scenarios. These are exacerbated when coupled with bad yard design, unsafe handling practices and no training.

Animals can also present risks through zoonotic diseases (ie you can catch them).

Chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides can be useful tools when managed correctly, but are also dangerous to your wellbeing if the proper precautions aren’t taken.

Water. Farm dams are a big drowning risk to children and you should take steps to prevent access by your and visiting children.

Who is at risk?

It’s not just you and your family who are at risk of injury or death. Your visitors also need to be considered and steps in place to brief people of the dangers to avoid.

Children are sadly a large part of farm injury and deaths, so you should give their safety particular consideration. Research the risks and find out how to prevent them.

What can you do?

While there will always be inherent risks on farms and rural properties, there are many things you can do to reduce the chances of you or others coming unstuck.

  • Start by reviewing the list above and seeing which apply to your land. What can you do as a regular practice to reduce your risk.
  • Regularly get out and walk around your block. As well as enjoying your land, you can also consider any risks as you wander and contemplate life.
  • Speaking of wandering, have a safe area for young children on your land. This area should be contained to help prevent children from wandering into harm’s way. Also fence off any dams and waterways.
  • Along this vein, you can also get first aid and resuscitation training to be able to do something if accidents happen.
  • If using quad bikes, understand the risks, use them as recommended and with appropriate safety measures.
  • Keep chemicals, machinery and firearms under lock and key.
  • Draw up a farm safety plan to identify the risks and how you will mitigate them. SafeWork NSW have a safety checklist which can guide you.
  • Brief any visitors on potential areas of danger, and have no-go zones for children.

Further reading

The A-Z of Farm Safety (SafeWork NSW)

Quad Bikes on Farm (SafeWork NSW)

Farm Safety Self Assessment (SafeWork NSW)

Children Safety on Farms (SafeWork NSW)