Keeping our kids safe

Host: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.
Written by Fiona O’Sullivan, Manager, Agriculture Unit, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

By now, you should’ve worked out that I’m passionate about safety, I love a challenge, and relish travelling the length and breadth of our beautiful state connecting people with services to improve their business.

When I first started work as an Inspector with Workplace Health and Safety, I had what could be called a baptism of fire. In the first few months, I regularly attended serious incidents and fatalities not too far from where I lived. Unfortunately, a large proportion of those who died were children or young workers. And these awful tragedies were happening on the family property or a neighbour’s place. I was heartbroken for those families, angry that young lives had been taken all too soon, and very determined to make a change.

First up, I was privileged to work on a project that explored various types of fencing systems to keep very young children safely within the confines of the home garden, and which offered interesting low cost play areas. While working on that project, I saw some great initiatives used to keep little ones safe. These included placing goat head burrs around the garden fence to slow down escaping kiddies, double fencing with barbed wire, and the use of hot tape. Now some people may think these initiatives are harsh, but the bottom line is small children need to be kept away from sheds, dams, plunge dips, troughs, vehicles, and machinery. If they are not shielded from these things, there’s a fair chance they’ll get into strife and end up seriously injured or worse.

As you can see, there’s often a very serious side to my job. As our Safety Ambassador Shane Webcke often reflects, ‘serious injury or death has wide ramifications – the victim pays the ultimate price, but families are left devastated the rest of their life.’ For mine, fatalities are bad enough, but it’s even worse when the life lost is a young one. No parent deserves to bury their child!

Sharing information, safety tips, and experience with young workers is vital.

On a lighter note, one of things I really look forward to each and every year is WHSQ’s school farm safety competition. Regional and rural primary school kids highlight many of the risks on agricultural properties through their master pieces. The winning entries in the drawing competition are used in a calendar promoting farm safety messages.

Last year, almost 500 children from across the state submitted works of art, with 12 featured in the safety calendar. 43 different schools were represented from places like Warwick, Kingaroy, Tamrookum, and Cooyar. These kids are learning and delivering farm safety messages such as; using quad bikes safely, preventing drowning in farm dams and water bodies, being safe around electricity, riding horses safely, safely storing hazardous chemicals, and hazards around farm machinery. The smiles when my team and I deliver their prizes (and one for the school) are priceless.

This annual campaign reminds me to ask farmers ‘how safe is your property for young children?’ It’s a tough question to answer and often we think we’ve got it covered, but most times we can do better.

Come in Farmsafe Australia – an organisation looking to enhance the well-being and productivity of Australian agriculture through improved health and safety awareness and practices. Farmsafe Australia has some awesome information about staying safe on Australian farms, and in this instance, the pages on Child Safety On Farms and Safe Play Areas offer great advice.

Over the years, I’ve also been lucky to cross paths with Kylie Stretton. The mother of two runs cattle near Charters Towers and is a big advocate for child safety, with her two involved in everyday activities.

Recently, our Safety Ambassador Shane Webcke was in Charters Towers and caught up with Kylie for a few tips about keeping kids safe on the land.

As we head towards the Easter break, let’s do our best to keep our most precious commodity safe!

WHSQ’s Fiona O’Sullivan and her son Angus ahead of his first day as a ringer/stockman.

More information is available on WHSQ’s Child safety page.

For general safety advice, visit the WHSQ website or call 1300 362 128.