It will come as no surprise to most of us to find out that farming is a dangerous game. However, farming is not just a dangerous occupation; farms are the most dangerous workplaces in Australia today.
Farmers in Australia work in confined spaces, at great heights, near electricity and large bodies of water, around large animals and toxic chemicals, using heavy machinery and driving industrial vehicles. They are often out in the fields alone in very remote locations, where there is no first aid nearby and no phone service to call for help if something goes wrong.
It’s the combination of these risks that makes farming so dangerous. Although they make up only one in ten workplaces in Australia, around one quarter of all work-related deaths in this country occur on farms. Just last year, farm-related injuries cost us $51 million.
“Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in due to the combination of hazards” – Safe Work Australia
Luckily, technology has turned its attention to keeping the people behind the screens safe.
While significant, most of the risks associated with farming can be mitigated with the right planning. By educating farmers and making sure everyone is trained in safety procedures, by maintaining equipment, and by installing safety features on machinery, the agriculture industry has come a long way in protecting its workers. However, it’s only with rapid technological innovation that farmers have really been able to take control of their safety.
When the work gets hard, the AgTech gets smart. Internationally, researchers have been developing drone technology to eliminate the need to check crops in person, removing unnecessary encounters with hazards like chemical exposure in the fields. Sensors are being developed in Iowa to warn farmers when their tractors are in danger of overturning, and to send alerts to emergency services up to 40 miles away when the worst happens.
While AgTech can’t always remove risks, it can help to manage them, and this is ultimately the path to keeping our farmers safe. Apps like the Zero Harm Farm map out risks within a property for everyone to view, including visitors to the farm. Using the latest technology, these interactive maps can even pinpoint hazards intuitively and suggest prevention control, as well as making reporting issues more detailed than ever.
Safe Ag Systems in South Australia is employing geo-fencing technology and QR codes to make safety management easier for agribusinesses all over the country. Using an app, farmers can create and scan QR codes linked to online safety checklists for every piece of equipment in the farm.
“Our aim is to educate the industry on how to minimise risk and engage their workers to foster a culture of safety” – Safe Ag Systems, quoted in The Flinders News