Study to help improve farm safety

Thursday, 16 December, 2004

Former AFL chief Wayne Jackson has lent his support to a new Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) study into farm machinery injury.

Mr Jackson, who broke eight ribs in multiple places and suffered a collapsed lung when he fell from a trailer in 2001, says it was a frightening experience that brought home to him the dangers of farm work. "For a moment I really thought this was it - then I realised my head was clear and I could move my legs," he said. "I spent a couple of days in intensive care and was told that had I been a smoker, I probably wouldn't have survived the trauma."

MUARC is studying cases of serious farm machinery injuries to gather information about the major causes - and to ultimately improve safety for farm workers. The two-year project, led by mechanical engineer Wayne Baker, is funded by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC), and is linked to a similar study conducted in the Canadian grain belt. Seriously injured farmers or farm workers will first be altered to the project during treatment in one of 14 Victorian hospitals, where they will be asked about the incident. If the farm worker agrees to take part in the project, Mr Baker will then visit the property to assess the machinery.

"Farm machinery operation has historically been one of the most dangerous occupations - serious injuries don't only affect the farm worker, but also their family and sometimes the viability of the farm," Baker said. "This project is looking at machinery operation and design to determine the most common causes of injury." Any farmer who operates machinery may also be asked to assist in the project, as researchers will also contact injured farmers by telephone, to assess similar machinery for a 'control' comparison. Baker, who has a farming background, hopes to study 40 injury cases, as well as 80 comparison machines, over the two years. "We are keen to have a look at as many as possible over the two years and farmers can be assured that the information gathered is strictly for research purposes only, and confidentiality is ensured by secure storage on an anonymous database," Baker said.

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