Injury is an ongoing and significant problem for people living, working and playing in rural areas. These people have a high risk of injury compared to their urban counterparts. Our rural community is made of small townships, farming communities and National Parks.
Farms form a major part of rural communities. They are not just workplaces; they are homes, playgrounds and leisure sites for workers, families and friends. Therefore, from an injury prevention perspective, farms and the rural regions are complex settings.
In the Mackay Regional Council (MRC) rural sector there have been a number of fatalities and serious injuries that are disproportionately higher than in the urban section. These have happened in various rural settings. They have involved tractors, trucks, motor bikes, quad bikes, trains, use of machinery and tools, and animals. Fatalities and injuries have occurred during work, home and leisure. Falls have been one of the major injuries especially in children and people e 55+. Sugar cane and beef cattle are the agriculture sub-sectors where most people are injured. The economic importance of these industries is demonstrated by being a major supplier of commodities and major employers.
With skill shortages in the Mackay region rural industries likely to continue into the medium and long term, and with an ageing workforce, it is important to try to prevent or minimise work-related and other injuries, thus lessening the social and economic costs to the community.
Rural safety in the wider Mackay Region can be improved through education, resource promotion, and the implementation of programmes with an aim to advocate for a safer rural community and improved risk management strategies, resulting in lower numbers of injuries and fatalities.
In 2009, the Rural Safety Working Group (RSWG) was formed as data sourced from Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations identified farm injury as an issue in the MRC area.
Safety on farms and in other rural settings had been identified by Safe Communities Mackay for some time, but no partner member had the capacity to respond to the issue. The amalgamation of Councils to form the MRC and the decision to have Councillors holding portfolios, which included Rural Communities and Engagement, allowed this portfolio Councillor to initiate the RSWG.
Initially, a Rural Safety Forum was held which was attended by 20 representatives from industry, Government (Local and State) and community. This event provided an opportunity to put rural safety on the community agenda and was the catalyst for the formation of the RSWG.
The group continues to maintain participation from core members from industry, Government and the community and attract new members. A number of projects have been completed to raise the profile of rural safety such as the Rural Safety Field Day during National Work Safe Week 2009; attendance at the 2010 BSES Field Days; and more are in progress. Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal Pty Ltd is the major sponsor for RSWG supplying member T-shirts, banner and brochures. The Queensland Police Service have also sponsored with the supplying of hates with logo bands.
The Rural Safety Working Group exists to:
- Increase community awareness of safety issues for rural people and other people when in rural areas;
- Identify existing safety promotion activities for rural people and other people when in rural areas and, where appropriate, promote their integration into the Safe Communities framework, through the development of partnerships;
- Where indicated, apply health promotion and good practice principles to develop, implement and evaluate rural safety strategies which are culturally appropriate, through eh use of a collaborative approach.
- Keep the Safe Communities Support Network informed of RSWG progress.
- Opportunistically respond to requests from stakeholders outside the RSWG for information and support pertaining the rural safety issues.