“I don’t ever want to make that call,” corporate farm Warakirri Cropping Manager Jono Robinson on why “Safety First, What’s the Rush” is the company’s slogan.
It’s printed on Warakirri Cropping’s work hats, to send home the message.
“My driver for focusing on safety is to get everyone home safely. Every day. We have a duty of care to everyone working on the farm and in the company, just like every other farming business does. The farm safety stats are not good: In 2021, the rate of work-related fatalities for agriculture was 10.4 deaths per 100,000 workers. Farming continues to be the highest risk occupation with around eight times the rate of fatality of the general employed population.”
Jono has been Warakirri Fam Manager for the last five years and has taken the business from 5000ha to 12800ha so it’s fair to say putting safety first isn’t holding him or the business back.
“Accidents happen when you either aren’t trained properly or you’re not focussed,” he said. This is why Warakirri has a dedicated Work Health and Safety Committee of which Jono is Chair and his wife is a strong advocate for on farm safety with the team.
As a result, the company has key areas for safety on farm:
- A safety app: built specially for them where daily and monthly audits of machinery are logged and actioned
- Full induction and training
- The lifesaver program with the following policies
- Light vehicles and trucks – conducting pre start and scheduled inspections and driving to our abilities.
- Heights: making sure people are qualified and avoid wherever possible, not working more than two metres off the ground without full protection.
- Operating heavy machinery: only employees trained in certain machinery are allowed to operate them.
- Confined spaces: eliminated wherever possible, qualified employees only
- Working in isolation: regularly checking in on employees working by themselves three times a day
- Fumes and vapors: ensuring only used by qualified employees who must wear the correct PPE
- Fatigue management: strict rules around working hours with travel to and from work and between jobs included
- Guarding lock out tag out – Applying LOTO to equipment under maintenance, ensuring correct guarding is on machines and fit for use
“Even during busy times, everyone works a six-day week with one day off and every 21 days they have two days off. In what we call an emergency case they can work seven days in a row but then it’s 48 hours off,” he said.
Jono says rushing around and pushing your mind and body past its limits should not be “just part of farming”. “Safety should always be first. When you think about the implications of an accident on farm, the person injured or deceased, the family, the mental toll, the claims, not to mention a possible lawsuit, it should be obvious to put safety first.”
And Jono isn’t stopping with Warakirri having worked closely with BCG to train farmers and contractors on how to safely recover bogged machinery.
“I want safety to be first for every farmer, employee, contractor, casual…”
“If you need more convincing: if you make safety first your efficiency improves. I’ve worked on both sides of the scale, working on farms since 2003. I know you can get just as much done in six days a week as you can seven. People are fresher, they’re more focused and it also brings with it a better culture as employees aren’t tired and grumpy that they haven’t had any time off. Therefore, it also helps with staff retention.”
The father of three young children isn’t just preaching either: “I have to live it, for me and those I’m managing. It’s no good having a Work and Safety policy stuffed away somewhere in the back of a cupboard. You need to be leading by example and constantly reminding people of it, refreshing their training and if all else fails there is sadly too many farm incidents not far from home to reiterate the importance.”
Unique opportunity to join safety network
BCG members are invited to join, the Safer Farms Families Futures (S3F) network commencing in 2023, to be a part of a Victorian industry first grower-to-grower learning network, that will tackle some of the critical health and safety issues experienced by individuals on farms across the region.
The call is out for Expressions of Interest to farm owners and managers to join this free network in 2023.
Make an Expression of Interest