Never allow yourself to be part of this storyAS THE final curtain came down on the 2016 annual conference of the Queensland Rural, Regional and Remote Women’s Network (QRRRWN) in Roma, wives, partners and daughters left with a vital message about farm safety for the farmers in their lives, with one particular motive — Shane Webcke said so. And he received a standing ovation for the message he presented.
During a well-attended conference session, the former Broncos front row forward, current Channel 7 sporting commentator and ‘full-time’ farmer made an impassioned statement — sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes pointing to his own lapse of self discipline — that small mistakes can have drastic repercussions if a farm safety discipline in not adhered to.
The Manager of the Agriculture Strategy Unit of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, a division of the Queensland Treasury, Fiona O’Sullivan told the conference that Shane Webcke is “cruising the state during October — Safe Work Month — having all sorts of discussions about workplace safety.”
As a Safety Ambassador for Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, Webcke is telling his own personal story of how his father’s death had a serious impact on his entire family — and to offer his perspective on the importance of staying safe at work and creating a strong safety culture.
He made an important, an ultimately profound point — his father wasn’t killed in an on-farm accident; he was working off-farm during hard times to allow his family to live a life on the land — something Shane now continues.
“I lost my dad in a workplace accident, so I know first-hand that family and loved ones are the most important reason for workplace safety,” he told.
Webcke delved into how the horrific accident happened, and questioned why farmers are so stubborn about workplace health and safety.
“My father was working in a wool scour and operating a wool baler when a massive hydraulic failure happened while he was leaning into it — and he was decapitated,” he told. “Most blokes like me don’t understand that it can happen to any of us.”
Then came the hate and blame — and his family directed this firmly at the company involved.
Then came an admission that is relative to agriculture: “My father knew of the safety issues with the machine — but he needed a job. Like many farmers, there was an ad hoc remedy to solve a problem.”
And the reasoning: “Perhaps he was the engineer of his own demise,” Webcke noted.
“This is the funny thing about blokes — he had an off-farm job so he could keep the farm.”
“And all the things he did to save us and the farm happened anyway,” he added.
Then the ultimate conundrum: “My father would take any risk known to man — cutting corners is what you do, safety takes second place — like climbing windmills without a harness.”
Unbeknown to Shane Webcke, on the previous day, Julie Macdonald had related the story of her husband Zanda’s death when he fell from a windmill platform on their Cloncurry property.
Webcke said that his father would never have thought of the worse case scenario.
“I continue to resent the decision my father made because of the hurt he did to me, my mum and family.
“I never saw him hurt himself, although he took enormous risk,” he said.
Shane continued with his story into his present life — and admits that at a young age, perhaps he didn’t learn a thing from his father’s death.
Playing for Broncos allowed him to do the things he always wanted to do — and that ultimately allowed him to buy his own farm.
He related the story of an ironbark tree on his property that had to be removed; he brought-in a contractor who removed the tree and left the stump on top of the ground.
“I had a brand new tractor, and I thought the hydraulics were strong enough to lift the stump onto the back of a truck and take it away.
“In essence, I was not operating the machine within in its limits — rather, I was testing its limits,” he said.
He discussed how he tried numerous ways to lift that stump, where he otherwise could have gone back to the shed, returned with a chainsaw, trimmed the roots and soil attached, which would have backfilled the hole (something he was going to have to bring soil in to do anyway).
But no, he persevered with the tractor option — which nearly had drastic results.
Shane’s six-year-old son was in the cabin with him, and the stump slid back towards the cabin.
“We were only centimetres from very serious injury; my son was bleeding.
“He ran away from a frightening situation,” Webcke told — “and I was part of the cause.”
Shane said he was not an advocate of wrapping people in cotton wool, but “what I do now is I don’t take the risk — and my kids too are learning to be safe on the farm.
“People learn from people,” he said advisedly.
Webcke says the comment of ‘copping the consequences if you kill yourself’ is a load of crap.
“But once I didn’t think like that.
“The only people who get what safety is about are those who have gone close to being killed or seriously injured.
“They think safety is for people who have to clean-up the mess — and they then endure it for a lifetime,” Shane Webcke said.
“Like most men, I’ve been tempted to go at it like a bull at a gate.”
Yet he had a clear message: “I don’t want to give my kids the chance to stand on a stage — like I am doing throughout Queensland now — and relate a similar experience.
“I have had to work very hard to remind myself that I must stay safe on the farm — so that my own family doesn’t suffer.”
At the conclusion, Shane Webcke admitted that his wife would never have forgiven him if their son had been seriously injured — or worse — in one act of pigheadedness instead of standing back and assessing the situation.
Full credit goes to Shane Webcke for telling a personally challenging story to remind others in agriculture that farm safety is in their own hands.
CLICK HERE if you require further assistance with your farm safety management.