Dairyman has personal story on farm safety

By Rodney Woods

‘‘Statistics over a long number of years show that we need to be better at this (being safer on-farm),’’ said Dairy Australia’s chair Jeff Odgers as he reflected on his own on-farm accident in 2002 during Farm Safety Week last week.

Mr Odgers said his family moved to Ardmona in 2001, and the serious accident occurred the following summer.

‘‘We were working on a large farm development project in the summer of 2002 and I got caught in the machinery,’’ he said.

‘‘Which resulted in the amputation of my right leg above the knee, which is something me and my family have had to live with since.

‘‘I love my farming, so we have continued to farm and we manage.

‘‘Obviously if I could take that moment back you’d want to be safe and not let that happen.

‘‘We all know that no-one sets out to have an accident.

‘‘The reality is though these accidents happen within a couple of seconds or in a moment.

‘‘After what’s happened to me, in a lot of cases they should be preventable.’’

Mr Odgers said having a prosthetic leg made things difficult.

‘‘As a result of the accident, I live life on a prosthetic leg,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s never like having your own limb.

‘‘I’m still actively farming, I still do most jobs but jobs are harder to do and take longer.

‘‘I’m probably yet to find out how that will affect my health as I get older.’’

Mr Odgers said Farm Safety Week was important for the industry.

‘‘Farm Safety Week is an opportune time to highlight that we need to raise awareness on dairy farms,’’ he said.

‘‘We want to maintain and create safe work environments. I think people would agree that’s what we’d all like to do.

‘‘We should keep working towards being a hell of a lot safer.’’

Mr Odgers explained the work Dairy Australia and Murray Dairy do in an effort to create such awareness.

‘‘What we’ve done in the Murray Dairy and Tasmania regions is we’ve worked with a couple of groups of farmers to create tools and resources that are really applicable to farms,’’ he said.

‘‘These help farmers look at their own business and identify gaps.

‘‘The first one is the Farm Safety Starter Kit, which we’ve had in the industry for a couple of years.

‘‘It covers about 14 areas and a check list in each area enables farmers to do a scan and to identify gaps, whether that’s quad bikes, chemical use or confined spaces.

‘‘And more recently the Farm Safety Manual (has been introduced), which includes standard operating procedures to keep the workplace safe.

‘‘Murray Dairy also runs workshops focused on farm safety and there are opportunities to get involved in those.’’

Despite the accident still firmly front of mind, Mr Odgers said when at Dairy Australia events, he made it clear he was a farmer.

‘‘I’ve felt, given my personal experience and how important it is to me, that I want to be a part of Dairy Australia highlighting the importance of this.

‘‘Whatever I say to people when I meet them (as Dairy Australia chair) is I always start the conversation by saying, ‘I’m a farmer from northern Victoria’.’’