Archies Creek farmer Ric Oldham says there is absolutely no way he would let his grandchildren do some of the things he used to do when he was a kid growing up on a farm.
Mr Oldham, who runs an Angus herd with wife Mez, bought the farm from his parents in 1996, and in the last 15-20 years has made significant changes to improve safety.
Having witnessed his mother get “pretty banged up” in a three-wheeler quad bike accident, and also having worked in the construction industry as a civil engineer where it’s “safety above all else”, he knew the attitude towards farm safety had to change, particularly as grandkids started emerging on the scene.
“We used to ride on tractors, ride quad bikes underage with no helmets, sit on top of three-metre haystacks being driven to the hay shed, and looking back on it, the things we used to do were extremely hazardous,” he said
“In the last few years, we have had them in the shearing shed, roustabouting for the shearers and penning up.
“I’ve seen a lot of near misses, and it’s just shaped an attitude and a commitment for me to prioritise safety on the farm.”
He said his first approach to improving farm safety was identifying the risks and making sure that the right controls are in place.
“What are the things that could permanently disable – or worse – kill someone on the farm?” he said.
“When you identify these hazards, you can put in place controls to eliminate or minimise the risks.”
A lot of the risks he identified were related to machinery.
“I now make sure I lock all my machinery, I don’t leave any keys in the equipment and I’ve got a key safe,” he said.
“I make people aware that I can’t see them very well when I’m operating machinery, so they are not to come close to it.
“I make sure I’ve got all the guards on and I don’t let any kids ride on tractors anymore.”
He said it was important people visiting the farm understood there were rules in place.
“I induct people when they come on the farm and explain all of these rules,” he said.
With eight grandkids and other family friends with kids who love visiting the farm, Mr Oldham said he “couldn’t bear it” if an accident were to occur.
“If something happened to one of my loved ones, I’d just have to walk away from the place,” he said.
“Any fatality or permanent disability from a farm accident is preventable.
“Following farming incidents there is a lot of soul searching and reflection about what we could have done, but in reality the tragic outcomes happened because we didn’t take all the steps and the time to put in place all the safeguards, and that is a reality and consequence I personally could not live with.”
Ric is not only making changes on his farm, but also encouraging others to do the same, through campaign work with the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Making our Family Farms Safer – Child Safety On Farms program, as well as engaging with his local community on the topic.
“We have our local Kernot Grumpy Farmers Group where we get together every second week and talk about stuff on the farm,” he said.
“I suggested to the group that as I have been involved in the VFF Making our Farms Safer consultative group, we should get VFF Farm Safety Advisor John Darcy to come down and do a talk to us about some of the things we may have let slip, as there are a lot of grandparents in the group.
“John took the opportunity to launch the ‘Child Safety on Farms – A practical guide for farming parents’ to the Kernot Grumpy Farmers Group and our local Bass Coast councillors.
“We are going to pick this issue up with the council through our Rural Engagement Group.”
Ric was lucky to have not had any accidents on the farm and he knew farm safety would always be an ongoing high priority.
“Safety is a journey, not a destination,” he said.