Our dairy farmers have a lot to contend with at the moment. Rising costs, scarcity of feed and the ongoing fight for a fair farmgate price dominate their waking (and sometimes sleeping) hours. The safety of any person living, working or visiting the farm is perhaps the biggest responsibility that farm managers and owners face on a daily basis.
There are 240 infringement notice offences for contraventions of the WHS and Electrical Safety (ES) legislation. When confronted with that figure, managers without proper WHS education and training are likely to put it in the too hard basket and simply hope to stay off the radar of inspectors.
While dairy is not considered to be one of the 'high risk' farm industries, the Queensland government's commitment to review and audit all primary industries means it is inevitable that dairy farms will be visited over the next few years.
Last week, Queensland Dairyfarmers' Organisation hosted Workplace Health and Safety workshops in Lowood, Warwick, Toowoomba and Beudesert with more than 80 dairy farmers attending. WHSQ Field Services and Compliance Agriculture Unit senior compliance officer Roslyn Rees was the key presenter at the workshops.
These workshops were fast-tracked by QDO after reports from a number of farms being issued with on-the-spot infringement notices and fines over the past six months.
Usually, farms will be visited by a regulator who will identify areas of priority for enforcement. If on a subsequent visit by an inspector identifies a contravention of a provision determined by the regulator to be a priority, the inspector will issue an infringement notice.
At the workshops, Ros presented key management practices to simplify the WHS process. These included identifying key infringement areas, responsibilities of management, safety management systems and processes that should be enforced.
The two key takeaway points made by Ros were for management to encourage staff to identify WHS issues and potential hazards since they are more likely to come into contact with them. Secondly, for management to be vigilant regardless of whether a person is a first time on-farm contractor or a regular farm worker who 'should know better'.
Dairy farmers who want to improve WHS on their farms and avoid substantial fines are encouraged to sign up for QDO's WHS workshops.