No cotton wool approach at Reardon Operations
02 Aug 2016
As Farm Manager to the 2015 Cotton Grower of the Year, Reardon Operations, Tristram Hertslet believes the key to running a safe and productive operation is to have well-trained staff, and make the most of effective communication technology.
Mr Hertslet has been working for Robert and Jenny Reardon for nine years, and took on the role as Farm Manager to the 25,000ha irrigated and dryland cropping operation located near Talwood, south-west Queensland, four years ago.
The role involves managing a large number of staff, with more than 20 full time employees on site and up to 20 casuals in peak times including university students, backpackers and contractors.
“To make management more effective we split things up into smaller supervision areas,” he said.
“We do this by allocating three cotton managers the responsibility for a farm supervisor, and each of those supervisors manage five staff members across different areas such as dryland, cattle and trucks.”
Mr Hertslet said extensive supervision and training is paramount to the productivity of the cotton operation.
Staff undertake off-farm courses including chemical courses, first aid certificates, and Certificate III in agriculture which covers aspects of farm safety such as dealing with confined spaces and quad bike training.
Mr Hertslet said the courses are helpful as they provide a benchmark for best practice work health and safety (WHS) and highlight areas that could be improved upon.
Prior to each busy period during the season, the company sets aside a day for training new staff and refreshing current staff on WHS practices.
Mr Hertslet said the practice is also further supported by regular record keeping and implementing a thorough employee induction based upon regulations set by myBMP, the Australian cotton industry’s best management practice program.
“These processes help to reduce grey areas and also help to ensure uniform clarity with installing farm policies,” he said.
“If something goes wrong, you’ve got the paperwork to back it up.”
Some key areas addressed in induction sessions at Reardon Operations are fatigue management (during busier times, staff hours are capped), Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), quad bike and motor bike usage, chemical handling and stock handling, as well as iPod, mobile phone and social media usage policies.
Mr Hertslet emphasised that one of the most important elements to the induction is that people don’t operate equipment unless they’re fully trained and “100 per cent competent.”
He believes that the thorough induction process, good use of communication technology and toolbox meetings have helped employees to remain accountable for WHS.
“Toolbox meetings are often arranged for Monday mornings and frequent communication via email, messaging and phone calls has strengthened our management capacity and in turn ensured a greater reliability and ease in communication between all employees,” he said.
“The good thing about mobile phones is that we don’t have to rely on toolbox meetings all the time. We can keep each other updated with emails and text messages without physically having to sit down.”
“This has helped to ensure that we have fewer incidents, and money and hours are saved on machinery.”
Now a fully accredited myBMP enterprise, Mr Hertslet said the main benefit is having Reardon Operations benchmarked against other businesses.
“Legislation changes, staff changes, practice changes and everything to do with health and safety is just something in the business that you must keep up to date with,” he said.
“My advice to other growers would be to constantly assess legislation and mandatory practices, keep a close record of all processes and to seek independent advice.”
Representing Reardon Operations as last year’s Cotton Grower of the Year, Mr Hertslet was invited to be part of the 2016 judging panel amongst other industry representatives, with WHS best practice forming a key component of the assessment criteria. The winner of the 2016 Cotton Grower of the Year Award will be announced this week at the 18th Australian Cotton Conference on The Gold Coast.
The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is committed to raising awareness about best practice WHS, as it works to improve the health and safety of workers and their families in farming industries across Australia.
PIHSP is funded by the Cotton, Grains and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, as well as the Australian Meat Processor Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia.
For more information about the PIHSP, visit www.rirdc.gov.au/PIHSP
Photo caption: Reardon Operations Farm Manager, Tristram Hertslet, offers tips in running a safe and productive operation.
Media contact: James Tolmie – 0439 991 082
The Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership (PIHSP) is funded by the Australian Meat Processor Corporation (AMPC), Cotton Research & Development Corporation (CRDC), Grains Research & Development Corporation (GRDC), Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) and Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC). The PIHSP aims to drive sustainable improvements to work health and safety outcomes in agriculture, forestry and fishing through investment in RD&E.