2015 Winter - Labour matters in Australian agriculture

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FPJ1202E, Winter, S (2015) , The Long (and Winding) Road to Safety

FPJ1202E, Winter, S (2015) , The Long (and Winding) Road to Safety, in Farm Policy Journal: Vol. 12 No. 2, Winter, pp. 37-45.

The primary industries are still among the most dangerous workplace environments in Australia. There are many ways in which farming, fishing and forestry enterprises can improve work health and safety (WHS), but they are under-utilised. Primary industries have traditionally had a culture based on individuals valuing self-reliance, tending to underestimate the likelihood of injury to themselves and others, viewing health and safety risks as an inevitable part of ‘doing business’ and inaccurately believing that managing WHS risks is complicated, expensive and unnecessary. However, primary producers have also suggested that with strong leadership and positive attitudes from key people and communities, the creation of a ‘culture’ of safety is possible.

This paper discusses the notion of a safety culture and how it might be constructed. International expert Professor Patrick Hudson contends that organisations advance through a range of categories before they reach such a culture, where they are intrinsically motivated to be safe even when there seems no obvious reason. The bad news is that creating such a system and keeping it alive is not a particularly easy task, especially given the large number of businesses and the mix of individual operators and corporate entities that make up primary industries. The good news is that it is worthwhile, both in terms of lives and profits.

The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is piloting a contemporary approach to improving organisational culture, and will look to other industries to identify what has worked in other sectors. The PIHSP is funded by the Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) for the cotton, grains, livestock, meat processing and fishing industries and the Rural Industries RDC. In order to advance the safety culture, the PIHSP aims to implement high-impact, targeted research, development and extension (RD&E) programs in a new approach which places greater emphasis on better understanding and then effectively overcoming the barriers to WHS in primary industries. The Partnership’s objectives are based on the conclusion that the scope and capacity of a worker to make a decision on WHS is constrained or enabled by a complex set of key influencers and the interactions between them.

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