The atmosphere might have been light and chatty when a dozen women joined a 'chat and create' session in Tamworth on Tuesday, November 21, but the messaging was serious, focused on agricultural workplace safety requirements.
SafeWork NSW regional workplace health and safety (WHS) manager, Krystal Carter, said the Rural Adversity Mental Health Program (RAMHP) and Rural Women's Network were co-hosts for the event, which drew attendees from Tamworth, Gunnedah and Glen Innes from a variety of farming backgrounds to discuss a serious topic in a relaxed environment.
Mrs Carter said the day was all about what it meant to be safe on farms.
"We discussed safety issues specific to farming and agricultural businesses, along with what resources and services are relevant for farming families in the area of mental health and wellbeing," she said.
"We know women are business owners, operators and leaders, and they play a key role in the family environment when it comes to making sure their farm is safe.
"Many farms are family farms but also working farms that are workplaces with safety obligations that must be met."
Mrs Cater said it was no coincidence SafeWork NSW's partners in the event were RWN and RAMPH.
"We all have a shared goal of supporting regional women and regional women in business, in mental health support and ensuring access to services - all are key priorities for us all," she said.
The timing of the 'chat and create' session was also targeted, as the sector prepares for the summer and Christmas.
"Farms are great places to visit but there are also hazards - we need to keep children off adult-sized quad bikes, make sure people wear a helmet on quad bikes and side- by-sides, secure plant and equipment, and prepare a seasonally safety plan and ensure your visitors know and follow the farm safety rules," Mrs Carter said.
Apart from working on their masterpieces of Buttercup the cow, Mrs Carter said the women taking part in the session were keen to find out about safety and mental health initiatives and other related services which were available to them in a relaxed environment.
"We want them to take away key safety messages, such as who is Safework NSW, what our role is and how we can support them towards a safe farm environment," she said.
There were some audible gasps from the audience when Mrs Carter and her colleague and local SafeWork NSW inspector Jodie Toole explained statistics which showed the agricultural sector was the leading sector for deaths - even higher than construction.
Mrs Toole said one in five worker fatalities in NSW was a farmer.
"Sadly, this statistic is not decreasing, so today was a really good opportunity to get our safety messaging out to farm women," she said.
Mrs Toole said in the past 18 months statistics had shown, most fatalities had tended to involve men over the age of 50, but sadly, children and young workers were also accounting for some of those stats.
The Tamworth session was SafeWork NSW's second 'chat and create' session, and followed a pilot session in Orange earlier this year which Mrs Carter said received "really great feedback".
"It's hard for women to get away from their farms - we know there may be potential clashes with issues like harvest being in full swing - so it's great to see such a turn out at this time," Mrs Carter said.
"We hope by raising these issues with farm women, they will go home and share this information at the dinner able tonight and through their local networks to spread the word around.
"Women are often the head and shoulders of a farm business, working in the background putting safety plans together, doing the book keeping, ensuring things are in order.
"Our message to them is SafeWork NSW can go out to a farm and show you ways to improve safety on your farm."
Mrs Carter said SafeWork NSW hoped to run more events like the Tamworth 'chat and create' session in the new year.