News

Prevention the best medicine

By Rick Bayne

FORMER NURSE and current south-east Queensland dairy farmer Sara Bucher has seen first-hand how accidents destroy lives.

Now she’s determined to make sure every farmer and farm worker goes home safely at the end of the day.

Mrs Bucher is supporting a new Dairy Australia safety program that gives farmers the tools they need to create a safe work environment.

She learned the hard way that every farm needs a dedicated farm safety plan after she and husband Markus went into dairy farming four years ago near Kenilworth on the Sunshine Coast.

Several significant accidents involving farm vehicles made Sara and Markus realise the importance of preventing accidents, particularly on high-risk quad bikes.

“Farmers are the safest operators in many ways but we needed a formal systematic approach that made our expectations crystal clear,” Mrs Bucher said.

“By doing that we’ve improved quality, farmer confidence and staff retention and we’ve stopped the major incidents repeating themselves.”

Mrs Bucher said injury prevention needs to be the cornerstone of every farm.

The Buchers were already well connected to the dairy industry when they took over the farm in 2014. Mr Bucher grew up on a farm in Switzerland and trained as a cheese maker. Fourteen years ago, they opened cheese and yoghurt factory Maleny Cheese.

“With the farm we saw a genuine business opportunity to shore-up milk supply for the cheese and yoghurt business and to supply fresh milk to other small dairy processors in south-east Queensland,” Mrs Bucher said.

They run the farm with a team of seven staff and a school-based trainee. Mrs Bucher, who manages people and culture on the farm, said safety was a vital part of its success.

“My background as a nurse and our success with the other business highlighted the importance of managing risk through proper farm safety systems,” she said.

They accessed every available course and opportunity for assistance to develop a farm safety system.

“It opened up a whole understanding of how important it is to employ professionally-minded people and to support them in doing their job safely,” she said.

“If farmers need a quad bike for a job they need it to be well maintained and they need to be trained and understand their safety.”

Wearing a helmet on all mobile vehicles became a major symbol of the farm’s culture change.

The Buchers continue to work closely with staff to hear any concerns and to keep safety front-of-mind, including monthly meetings and using the WhatsApp to spread safety messages.

She recommends all farms use Dairy Australia’s new program.

“We’ve taken on the tools and are developing it to our program. It’s a great gift that this program is available at no cost so it makes sense to tailor it to your own farm.

“Having seen terrible injuries to people in my past career has made me extremely determined that every person go home safe and well.

“Farmers sacrifice so much of themselves. It’s their passion and determination that feeds our country, why should they risk their lives doing it?”