Health and safety of people in the industry

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Definition: Working environments through the beef value chain, especially on-farm, expose employees and contractors to risk. This priority looks at notifiable fatalities, however industry recognises further investigation of injuries could highlight risk factors and improve work safety.

Indicators


The context

Providing healthy and safe workplaces is essential. Within the Australian beef industry, work health safety procedures, practices and incident rates differ significantly by sector.

The processing sector has well-established procedures, systems and practices in relation to work health safety. Despite this, it is a dangerous industry with saws, blades and heavy lifting required and as such injury in red meat processing is higher than other manufacturing sectors. The high risk of injury is reflected in worker compensation industry rates which are amongst the highest in the nation.

Wherever there is handling of cattle there is a risk of worker injury. For feedlots, work health safety is managed within the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme. For livestock transporters, the Australian Trucking Association’s TruckSafe scheme sets out standards for driver health and safety.

Beef producers face the highest level of risk to life across the industry. Agriculture has a higher fatality rate than the national average for all industries – with cattle, sheep and grain farming seeing the highest number of fatalities in agriculture. SafeWork has identified agriculture as a priority industry in its Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.72 While agriculture’s fatality rate has been falling since 2003, it is still falling nearly two times slower than the national rate.

Farms are unique business environments with farmers often self-employed and working alone with a variety of hazards such as plant, vehicles, chemicals, noise, sun exposure and animals. This context means farmers face a high level of health and safety risk with limited opportunities to share practices and get help should an incident occur. Additionally, farms are often both workplaces and residences, which can leave family members exposed to hazards.


Industry position

The Australian red meat and livestock industry prioritises the wellbeing of people and has a zero-harm policy for any individuals within the supply chain.

The industry is supportive of policies that incentivise businesses across the supply chain to improve work health and safety.


What is the data telling us?

Data included in the Framework is the most recent available from Safe Work Australia’s Traumatic Injury Fatalities database.

In 2017, three fatalities were recorded for the beef industry. Two of these fatalities were recorded on farm and one in processing.

Last year’s Annual Update reported nine fatalities for 2016, however these were for the whole agricultural industry. This year, the industry has collaborated with Safe Work to break the figures down specifically for beef. As such, it is not possible to compare fatalities from the past two years.

The beef industry is taking on a cross-agricultural approach and seeks to develop more lead indicators for work health safety.


Snapshot of activity

The considerable differences in the risks between sectors requires a tailored approach to tackling health and safety.

On farm

Following the end of the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership in 2017, the industry has taken the lead to renew the focus on workplace health and safety. Research and Development Corporations (RDC) including AgriFutures, Dairy Australia and MLA have partnered to form a new Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA). The partnership will invest in practical extension solutions to reduce death, injury and illness in farming and fishing. Identifying and targeting different barriers and enablers for work health safety will be the focus of the alliance which is in the process of shaping its strategy.

This RDC alliance will complement the well-established activities of state-based bodies including:

  • Farmsafe Queensland
  • Farmsafe NSW
  • Farmsafe Victoria
  • Farmsafe South Australia
  • Safe Farms WA
  • Farmsafe Tasmania

These state bodies are coordinated under Farmsafe Australia, an umbrella entity for agricultural health and safety agencies. These groups deliver workshops, tools and resources to farmers to inform and drive uptake of safe workplace practices. The FarmSafe Australia Safety Induction Tool is an easy to use online guide that can be used by farm managers to induct and train new workers in farm safety.

In addition, the National Farmers’ Federation works in partnership with SafeWork Australia to develop videos that showcase best practice in health and safety on the farm.

Specifically for cattle properties, MLA has created a series of online manuals that offer practical resources such as comprehensive and easy-to-follow checklists, templates and guidelines that help producers plan and implement on-farm health and safety initiatives.

In many cases, we are aware of what practices and procedures work, but adoption is not achieved. A greater understanding is required of the social barriers to farm safety, which will allow delivery groups to better drive uptake of safe on-farm practices and embed a health and safety culture on the farm.

Feedlot

Safe working environments and safety being the responsibility of all staff are tenets of the feedlot sector. The National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) requires feedlots to ensure that “staff are adequately trained to ensure they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to competently perform the duties required of them by the NFAS Standards”.

In July 2019, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association will conduct a series of workshops for feedlots in which participants will learn to promote effective team communication, which is vital to keeping everyone safe in environments filled with rapid change. The one-day workshop is designed for all personnel but has been tailored specifically for feedlot staff, with practical references to their on-site work environment.

Processing

Processors and the wider industry make significant investments in continuously improving health and safety in the sector.

At an individual company level, it is a legal requirement to provide safe workplaces and report any incidents. Processors invest in their own OH&S programs to reduce the inherent risks of processing meat.

At an industry level, the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) maintains a substantial body of health and safety resources. Members can access guidelines, publications, risk management guides, injury management procedures, training videos, and tutorial guides to assist processors in work health safety programs.

AMIC is undertaking a project with Deakin University to more accurately understand the causes of injury and calculate lost time from injuries. The project’s first research phase confirmed the rate of injury in the meat industry remains higher than for other industries. Body stressing and being hit by moving objects were identified as the most common mechanisms for injury. The research findings will be used in the project’s next phase to develop a prevention and intervention strategy to reduce the incidence and severity of injury in the meat industry.

Definition: Working environments through the beef value chain, especially on-farm, expose employees and contractors to risk. This priority looks at notifiable fatalities, however industry recognises further investigation of injuries could highlight risk factors and improve work safety.

Indicators


The context

Providing healthy and safe workplaces is essential. Within the Australian beef industry, work health safety procedures, practices and incident rates differ significantly by sector.

The processing sector has well-established procedures, systems and practices in relation to work health safety. Despite this, it is a dangerous industry with saws, blades and heavy lifting required and as such injury in red meat processing is higher than other manufacturing sectors. The high risk of injury is reflected in worker compensation industry rates which are amongst the highest in the nation.

Wherever there is handling of cattle there is a risk of worker injury. For feedlots, work health safety is managed within the National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme. For livestock transporters, the Australian Trucking Association’s TruckSafe scheme sets out standards for driver health and safety.

Beef producers face the highest level of risk to life across the industry. Agriculture has a higher fatality rate than the national average for all industries – with cattle, sheep and grain farming seeing the highest number of fatalities in agriculture. SafeWork has identified agriculture as a priority industry in its Work Health and Safety Strategy 2012-2022.72 While agriculture’s fatality rate has been falling since 2003, it is still falling nearly two times slower than the national rate.

Farms are unique business environments with farmers often self-employed and working alone with a variety of hazards such as plant, vehicles, chemicals, noise, sun exposure and animals. This context means farmers face a high level of health and safety risk with limited opportunities to share practices and get help should an incident occur. Additionally, farms are often both workplaces and residences, which can leave family members exposed to hazards.


Industry position

The Australian red meat and livestock industry prioritises the wellbeing of people and has a zero-harm policy for any individuals within the supply chain.

The industry is supportive of policies that incentivise businesses across the supply chain to improve work health and safety.


What is the data telling us?

Data included in the Framework is the most recent available from Safe Work Australia’s Traumatic Injury Fatalities database.

In 2017, three fatalities were recorded for the beef industry. Two of these fatalities were recorded on farm and one in processing.

Last year’s Annual Update reported nine fatalities for 2016, however these were for the whole agricultural industry. This year, the industry has collaborated with Safe Work to break the figures down specifically for beef. As such, it is not possible to compare fatalities from the past two years.

The beef industry is taking on a cross-agricultural approach and seeks to develop more lead indicators for work health safety.


Snapshot of activity

The considerable differences in the risks between sectors requires a tailored approach to tackling health and safety.

On farm

Following the end of the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership in 2017, the industry has taken the lead to renew the focus on workplace health and safety. Research and Development Corporations (RDC) including AgriFutures, Dairy Australia and MLA have partnered to form a new Rural Safety and Health Alliance (RSHA). The partnership will invest in practical extension solutions to reduce death, injury and illness in farming and fishing. Identifying and targeting different barriers and enablers for work health safety will be the focus of the alliance which is in the process of shaping its strategy.

This RDC alliance will complement the well-established activities of state-based bodies including:

  • Farmsafe Queensland
  • Farmsafe NSW
  • Farmsafe Victoria
  • Farmsafe South Australia
  • Safe Farms WA
  • Farmsafe Tasmania

These state bodies are coordinated under Farmsafe Australia, an umbrella entity for agricultural health and safety agencies. These groups deliver workshops, tools and resources to farmers to inform and drive uptake of safe workplace practices. The FarmSafe Australia Safety Induction Tool is an easy to use online guide that can be used by farm managers to induct and train new workers in farm safety.

In addition, the National Farmers’ Federation works in partnership with SafeWork Australia to develop videos that showcase best practice in health and safety on the farm.

Specifically for cattle properties, MLA has created a series of online manuals that offer practical resources such as comprehensive and easy-to-follow checklists, templates and guidelines that help producers plan and implement on-farm health and safety initiatives.

In many cases, we are aware of what practices and procedures work, but adoption is not achieved. A greater understanding is required of the social barriers to farm safety, which will allow delivery groups to better drive uptake of safe on-farm practices and embed a health and safety culture on the farm.

Feedlot

Safe working environments and safety being the responsibility of all staff are tenets of the feedlot sector. The National Feedlot Accreditation Scheme (NFAS) requires feedlots to ensure that “staff are adequately trained to ensure they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to competently perform the duties required of them by the NFAS Standards”.

In July 2019, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association will conduct a series of workshops for feedlots in which participants will learn to promote effective team communication, which is vital to keeping everyone safe in environments filled with rapid change. The one-day workshop is designed for all personnel but has been tailored specifically for feedlot staff, with practical references to their on-site work environment.

Processing

Processors and the wider industry make significant investments in continuously improving health and safety in the sector.

At an individual company level, it is a legal requirement to provide safe workplaces and report any incidents. Processors invest in their own OH&S programs to reduce the inherent risks of processing meat.

At an industry level, the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) maintains a substantial body of health and safety resources. Members can access guidelines, publications, risk management guides, injury management procedures, training videos, and tutorial guides to assist processors in work health safety programs.

AMIC is undertaking a project with Deakin University to more accurately understand the causes of injury and calculate lost time from injuries. The project’s first research phase confirmed the rate of injury in the meat industry remains higher than for other industries. Body stressing and being hit by moving objects were identified as the most common mechanisms for injury. The research findings will be used in the project’s next phase to develop a prevention and intervention strategy to reduce the incidence and severity of injury in the meat industry.