MOVING FORWARD: Meringur-based sheep and cereal farmers, Peter and Annette Lambert utilised WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program. They were pleased with the results.

MOVING FORWARD: Meringur-based sheep and cereal farmers, Peter and Annette Lambert utilised WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program. They were pleased with the results.

It's never you, until it is: Planning for a safe harvest season

It's never you, until it is: Planning for a safe harvest season

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Farm deaths and injuries are preventable, not inevitable, especially when there are simple steps that can be taken to help keep our families, workers and communities safe.

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Story in partnership with WorkSafe Victoria.

Harvest is one of the busiest times of the year for many in the agriculture industry.

From the longer hours to the large number of seasonal workers and contractors on the property - as well as family members lending a hand - there is an increased risk of things going wrong.

Unfortunately, workplace injuries are commonplace on Victorian farms and agriculture is overrepresented in workplace death statistics too.

Victorian farms make up approximately 14 per cent of annual workplace fatalities. This is despite the fact that farms account for just four per cent of workplaces in Victoria and only two per cent of the state's workforce.

Every death is one too many, WorkSafe Victoria says. The state's farm deaths and injuries are preventable, not inevitable, especially when there are simple steps that can be taken to help keep our families, workers and communities safe.

WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program offers farmers free, confidential and personalised safety support from an agriculture industry expert at a time that suits.

The program's independent consultants will help farmers identify hazards and injury risks, tailored to the operation, and work with farmers to develop practical safety action plans that can be applied on a regular basis.

WORKING TOGETHER: Strawberry growers in the Yarra Valley have been proactive in confronting the COVID-19 challenges.

WORKING TOGETHER: Strawberry growers in the Yarra Valley have been proactive in confronting the COVID-19 challenges.

As we know, the realities of day-to-day farming can pose a serious risk to safety. Common issues around fatigue, working alone, using heavy machinery, increased vehicle traffic during harvest, and working near overhead powerlines can cause serious risk to the farmer and farm workers.

Having regular conversations with workers and maintaining machinery in line with a safety action plan can help minimise your risk.

With the added challenge of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, including less international workers and different employer obligations, it has never been a more important time to be implementing safety measures.

This season, WorkSafe Victoria's 'It's never you, until it is' campaign is aiming to shift attitudes towards safety and highlight the free services available to help farmers.

Over the past 12 months, the OHS Essentials consultants have experienced some great successes in engaging with our state's farmers.

One community that has been proactive in confronting the COVID-19 challenges is the strawberry growers in the Yarra Valley.

With the assistance of the Victorian Strawberry Industry Development Committee, OHS Essentials consultants visited over 35 farms in the region, advising on how to best navigate a COVIDSafe harvest.

The strawberry industry aren't the only ones taking OHS Essentials up on their offer. Many families across the state are also looking for ways to increase their safety standards.

SAFETY FIRST: OHS Essentials consultant Sue Archer working closely with strawberry growers in Victoria's Yarra Valley region to develop safety action plans.

SAFETY FIRST: OHS Essentials consultant Sue Archer working closely with strawberry growers in Victoria's Yarra Valley region to develop safety action plans.

As third generation sheep and cereal farmers, Peter and Annette Lambert are fully aware of the dangers that can come with the job.

To help reduce those risks and grow their business, the Meringur-based graziers are keen to put safety at the centre of their day-to-day operations.

That's why, at the suggestion of a neighbour, they utilised WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program.

Mr Lambert said the consultant not only gave him confidence they were doing everything they could to keep their team safe, but they'd also helped to diversify the business.

"You're getting advice and you're getting support and it steers you in the right direction," he explained.

"There are some things you just don't know, or don't see, or you're not aware of," he continued.

"There's a level of danger involved in much of the work we do around the property but you can help eliminate or control those risks by following the right procedures and doing things the safest way."

As farms across the state prepare for a busy harvest season, OHS Essentials consultant, Paul Livingstone, urged farmers to take advantage of the services on offer.

"The OHS Essentials program is available for all farmers whether they have WorkCover insurance or not," Mr Livingstone explained.

"It provides (farmers with) simple methods for protecting themselves and their employees," he continued.

"The benefits are fewer injuries, less downtime and greater efficiency in generating profit."

For more on the OHS Essentials Program, visit: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/ohsessentials

Story in partnership with WorkSafe Victoria.

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