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Workers’ Memorial Day & World Day for Safety and Health at Work is an awareness-raising campaign designed to focus international attention on emerging trends in the field of occupational safety and health.

Today we honour those who have died at work and think about how we can prevent future work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses.

Shining a spotlight on the agricultural industry

Between 2010 & 2014 agriculture accounted for 24% of all worker fatalities, despite this sector only accounting for 2.6% of the workforce. Consider this: every week nine South Australian primary producers are hurt seriously enough to lodge a work injury claim.

Below we highlight two examples of safety issues that employers in the agricultural industry faced, as well as looking at a recent shift in the way Australian workers need to handle chemicals.

Safety developments in agriculture in 2017

  • In January, labour hire company T&R Contracting Shepparton Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $60,000 for failing to provide adequate instruction and training in relation to a conveyor belt incident. The incident involved the scalping of a 21 year old Irish backpacker who was working in a pear packing shed when her hair became entangled in the conveyer belt that she was cleaning whilst it was still in motion. A liquidator has since been appointed.

  • The Supreme Court of Queensland has confirmed that responsibility for risks associated with fatigue do not end with an employee’s shift, and that all parties exercising control over a workplace will owe a duty of care to address this risk.

    In the case in question, a mining operator (the host employer), principal contractor and labour hire provider were all held liable for a serious injury caused when a worker ran off the road driving home after completing four consecutive 12 hour night shifts.

    The Court required those in charge of this particular workplace to:
  1. Limit shift length to allow for a rest every 15 hours;
  2. Provide transport from the remote workplace at the end of the roster;
  3. Supply an onsite place of rest; and
  4. Educate workers regarding fatigue, driving and identifying the need to rest.
  • Recent changes have been introduced to the requirements for handling hazardous chemicals as Australia aligns with the standards required by the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). The purpose of the GHS is to standardise the way in which information is conveyed about the hazards of chemicals and any precautions necessary to ensure safe storage, handling and disposal.

According to Safe Work Australia, serious claims fell 33% between 2000-01 and 2013-14. It’s important as a nation that we keep this number decreasing and continue to identify areas where employers can improve.

If you need assistance in drafting or updating procedures to address these, or any other safety issues, please contact a member of our Employment Law team.