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Health assessments target rural worker risks

Rural workers have been urged to more actively pursue basic health goals, following a health assessment survey conducted in Barcaldine recently as part of the Westech Field Day.

Rural and remote communities across the state have chronic disease rates higher than the major cities. Confirming earlier studies, the Barcaldine survey showed that a range of factors hindered workers from focusing on their health in a rural setting.

The voluntary health assessments and information on how to be fit and healthy were conducted by Central West health providers. Over two days, 134 people had their blood pressure taken. They were given information on maintaining flexibility, the importance of eating enough fruit and vegetables, sun safety, alcohol and smoking. A few were referred on to local health services.

There is no doubt that having a job is good for the economic, social and physical health of Queenslanders. However, if the work and the work environment are not conducive to good health and wellbeing, then productivity is compromised.

Education and programmes that focus on the individual will not ensure sustainable behaviour change to keep that worker healthy and safe. The physical and cultural work environment needs to support the healthy behaviour: engaging with rural workers about health and safety problems and solutions increases their knowledge and awareness of workplace hazards and gives them a sense of ownership in decisions.

Work health risks in the agricultural industry are varied, but include long work days, isolation, climate, sprains and strains, respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, alcohol and drugs, anxiety and depression. These issues are inter-related, but can be addressed in a seamless and integrated way that becomes part of your core business.

When you look at the risks to your workers, consider the work itself, the work environment and the people – and keep them involved throughout the process. Here are a few examples:

The work

  • Ensure work hours provide enough time to eat, sleep, relax and socialise.
  • Establish regular risk management processes and an annual business plan review.
  • Analyse high risk tasks and fit for work assessments to cut risk and support workers.
  • Arrange worker consultations with health professionals targeting health issues.

The work environment

  • Safe and clean accommodation and facilities for workers, with healthy food and drinks provided in canteens and vending machines.
  • Access to shade, sun safety products and clean drinking water
  • Designated smoking areas or a no smoking policy.
  • Publish a drug and alcohol policy or guidelines.

The worker

  • Distribute information on healthy eating, keeping fit, staying active, coping with mental health issues, drugs and alcohol.
  • Hold toolbox talks on these topics and others to look at what’s needed by and from the business and workers to increase productivity.

Health checks can help cuts rates of injury and disease for those working on the land.
Health checks can help cuts rates of injury and disease for those working on the land.

Further information

For more information on how you can make your workplace healthy, safe and productive, visit Live Well Farm Well, download Managing the work environment and facilities(PDF, 712.55 KB) or email healthyworkers@oir.qld.gov.au.

Last updated
27 September 2017

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