Reality check: Tips for avoiding injuries on the lifestyle farm

By Donna McIntyre

There are many injury risks when working a farm or a lifestyle block. Photo / APN
There are many injury risks when working a farm or a lifestyle block. Photo / APN

The nature of farm work, whether it's on a working farm or a lifestyle block, means it involves a range of injury risks. However, risks can be reduced by working in a safe way. The following information from ACC provides a window on risks likely to be faced on the lifestyle farm - along with simple steps to avoid injury.

The three most common causes of farm-related injuries are cattle handling, using farm vehicles (tractors and quad bikes), and manual handling tasks.

The popularity and convenience of quad bikes means they're just as likely to be found on a lifestyle block as they are on a large farm, so quad bike safety needs to be a top priority for the lifestyle farmer.

Quad bikes look solid but are inherently unstable because of their narrow wheel base and high centre of gravity. To avoid injuries: take a training course to learn about the risks and how to ride the bike properly; always wear a helmet; think about what you're carrying, where you're going and the angle of the slope you're about to tackle.

Also tell people where you're going and when you'll be back (and carry a cellphone).

Most of us don't take slips, trips and falls seriously, which is why they catch us out. To avoid these injuries, identify hazards such as manure, water, milk or cleaning fluids which can contribute to falls, wear non-slip footwear and install handrails on stairs and platforms.

Over-exposure to noise when you use machinery is another potential problem. If you have to shout to be heard by others nearby, you should be wearing hearing protection such as earmuffs or ear plugs.

Handling stock, especially cattle, is a skill developed over time. Use your voice to calm cattle - it's when they're alarmed or over-excited that they can be dangerous. Keep aware and identify an escape route. Carry a stick, not to hit the animal, but to make you look bigger and give you confidence if the animal gets "toey".

With tractors, around half of all roll-over accidents occur on flat land. Always start the engine and operate the controls from the tractor seat, never from the ground. Don't stand in front of or behind the tractor when the engine is running. Wear snug-fitting clothing, so it doesn't get caught in moving parts or accidentally activate control levers; and carry loads as low as possible to avoid roll-over. Also take care when dismounting from a tractor. Many claims for injuries arise from people jumping down, rather than climbing down, from a tractor.

With chainsaws, know your capabilities - if it's too big a job, get a professional. Wear protective clothing (gloves, chaps, helmet, safety glass, boots and hearing protection) and maintain your chainsaw.

To avoid ladder injuries: always keep three points of contact - two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand; don't carry anything in your hand - use a tool belt; don't over-reach sideways and never climb higher than the third rung from the top of a straight ladder, or the second step from the top of a stepladder.

Not all injuries happen suddenly - some develop over time. Feeling a bit sore after a hard day's work may be a sign your work practices need to change. Make sure you drink water often and eat healthily. Recognise the symptoms of fatigue (yawning, blinking, loss of concentration) so you know when to take a break. Also, avoid awkward postures; vary tasks to avoid the same repetitive actions all day; and use a machine to handle heavy objects. www.acc.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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