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Focus on farm fatigue for corporate agriculture 22 Jul 2015

Farmers put in long hours during peak periods like harvest and mustering, but it can have drastic consequences for safety, and fatigue is now in the spotlight of corporate agriculture.

As part of its drive to improve work health and safety (WHS) practices, the Corporate Agricultural Group is sharing data and benchmarking its results across its 15 member companies, which include leading agribusinesses Auscott, Paraway Pastoral Co, Hassad and Warakirri Cropping, with workforces ranging in size from 40 to 150 workers.

Injury claims and associated costs for agriculture came in at just under $300 million across the period 2008-09 to 2011-12, according to a recent report by the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP), Mapping work health and safety risks in the primary industries.

One of the coordinators of the Group’s WHS Committee, Richard Read, says corporate agriculture could lead the way for family farms in devising new ways of working smarter, rather than harder.

“Both companies and family farms have periods of high activity where it’s been the norm to work 12 and 14 hour days until the job is done, but that needs to be managed more effectively in the longer term if we want to engender a safety culture,” Mr Read said.

“Workers who are tired and in charge of machinery or livestock are a risk to both themselves and others in the workplace, and we’re looking at all the options available to see what’s the most time and cost-effective – which of course will not be the same for every property.”

As part of their benchmarking efforts, Mr Read says the Group’s members submit information to the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety on four key areas of safety: the Lost Time Injury Frequency Rate (LTIFR), the severity class of incident, percentage of lost time in a 12 month period, and incident and illness statistics.

“It’s been quite an eye opener for some companies to see the safety culture of others,” Mr Read said.

“We’d be hopeful that ultimately big business could act as leaders in safety for the family owned farms that make up such a big part of our primary industries,” Mr Read said.

The PIHSP is funded by the Research and Development Corporations for the meat processing, cotton, grains and livestock industries as well as the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. For more information visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP