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Work health and safety barriers in the agriculture industry

Shane Webcke, Queensland Work Safety Ambassador discusses barriers to work health and safety in the agriculture industry with Sharon Howard from AgForce.

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Shane Webcke: G'day. I'm Shane Webcke. I'm an ambassador for Queensland Workplace Health and Safety and I'm with Sharon Howard from Agforce here today. Sharon, I grew up in agriculture, you're obviously involved in it. What are the most pertinent issues around safety in agriculture?

Sharon Howard: I think it's looking at a history of the thoughts around operating safely but keeping in mind that the operations that we're talking about is involving animals, it's involving machinery, chemicals and children a lot of times and in remote areas.

Shane Webcke: What are the dangerous situations that typically can happen on a working property?

Sharon Howard: It's a whole gammon of things Shane. I mean, probably I would think, and not being across all the statistics, I think children would be a lot of the ones that end up hurt on farms and probably because we're trying to teach them how to operate in an agricultural industry that has a lot of those dangerous sort of situations. But also probably because a lot of the time it's been led by dad and dads are a lot braver than mums in a lot of cases, and Mums like me quite often get in trouble for hovercraft mother you know. I'll be right, they got to learn. Whereas we're sort of going, hang on how about we do this and that. Dads trying to teach them to be productive and useful and you know, man-up and all that sort of stuff. So I think there's a lot around that.

Shane Webcke: But would it be fair to say though, as it was in my family, and my father learnt his bad habits from somebody else. Therefore, in teaching me some of those things, all those things you talk about in terms of being a practical person and learning how to work are incredibly important. But the safety aspect of it for my dad was really hard for him to know, because he'd actually been raised in a fairly dangerous way himself. So are we necessarily, us dads, the best people to be trying to teach kids how to do things safe?

Sharon Howard: Yes, but, we absolutely have to get to those blokes with examples like you've spoke about with your dad and with your son and that's what cuts through, and I think any of those blokes in the bush now that are displaying sensible thoughts around workplace health and safety, is because they know someone something happened to. Or it nearly happened to them or they've heard stories about a bloke who was something terribly happened to and that cuts through so much more.

So the stories that you tell are vitally important to these sorts blokes and to the women too because it makes us sit there going, I told you so! It gives us some strength in our argument but the blokes need to hear that and that's where they will learn. They're still absolutely the best people to lead the charge, but we've got to get in their heads.

Shane Webcke: So it will be fair to say that, you know, where the dangers in agriculture sometimes are quite obvious, but it's the attitudes of us in that industry that need to change to really march safety forward in our industry.

Sharon Howard: That's right. And the solution is not throwing a pile of paper at these blokes and saying tick and flick all this and go through that with your workers. That is not going to work for all. Some it will, absolutely, but there are a lot of very practical, productivity driven blokes that will not do that.

But they can achieve the same outcomes by doing it a different way. As long as we are not prescriptive about what they have to do and we get cut through, they will do it every day of the week. No one goes to work wanting to get hurt. No one goes to work wanting to see their workmate get hurt of their kids damaged. That's a no-brainer. What we need to do is make sure that they recognise, the same as the mums, what could go wrong.

A lot of the time Shane, they are big strong blokes, they're physically fit blokes, they're muscly, they're across all this stuff and it's the same as my husband putting me on a horse that he knows he can handle, and he reckons I can. And I get thrown and hurt and he goes 'well what did you do that for?' Well I'm not the same as you.

Shane Webcke: There is an inherent danger when you don't know what you don't know, isn't there? So it's incumbent upon all of us in this industry to know what I think. What I used to think ok let's understand why something is dangerous. But more importantly, I think let's have an attitude that says let's not let this thing hurt us today or anybody that we care about.

Sharon Howard: Yes, that's right, let's get them to a case where we're saying, well I know I can do that, but the old girl might need a bit of a help, so I'll tone it down for her. We'll tell you what you're doing wrong anyway. But it's as you say, it's just getting that change of mind set and that comes through hearing stories like you've spoken about and making it real and not making it this potential danger that could happen and you tick the boxes. That won't cut through.

Shane Webcke: Absolutely. Sharon thank you very much for coming along.

RUN TIME: 4 min 43 sec