Aurora Dairies has become the inaugural winner of WorkSafe Victoria's top farm safety honour, one of Australia's largest milk producers.
The company won the Commitment to Workplace Health and Safety on a Farm award, which acknowledges businesses or people who have improved safety in their farming operations through leadership and practice.
Aurora Dairies - one of Australia's largest milk producers - was honoured for using low-cost technology, including geofencing and GPS tracking, to improve safety for quadbike operators on 25 of its farms across Victoria.
The company's chief executive Ben James said the company had seen a significant reduction in quad bike incidents since initial reviews of their safety in 2018.
"We have been doing a review of vehicles on our farms, and there a couple of shoulder injuries related to quad bike usage triggered our review and that was quite a detailed process,"
The review process included Gavin Merriman, health, safety and environment manager, Warakirri Asset Management, who undertook an international literature review.
"Gavin went through a pile of research, and that also meant we engaged with managers and their teams on the farms," Mr James said.
"What really came out of that... was that speed and terrain were the two greatest risks associated with use with quad bikes."
Mr James said safety was of prime importance for the company, and rollover protection, crash protection devices on all quad bikes, helmets and structured training had been integral to their operation since 2012.
But there was still a need to support reducing risk even further after seeing injuries still occurring.
"We looked at many GPS devices and reviewed the functionality of the locally supplied iTrack GPS device which enabled a number of things which would were key in being able to implement this initiative," he said.
"One is the ability tracked speed, and it also had the ability for us to go around and geofence no go zones."
Across the country, Aurora Dailies has 33 dairy farms and six youngstock properties that cover around 13,600 hectares and milk over 22,900 cows.
The geofencing technology alerts the driver of a quad bike who may have got too close to the many steep terrains, drains or dams on those properties.
"If they entered into a no go zone, a light that flashes on the actual quad or side by side vehicle to notify them of that," Mr James said.
Since implementing the technology, Mr James said there had been no major incidents, and staff have been very receptive to the safety initiative.
"This was about how we can reduce the risk associated with utilising particular equipment, which in turn leads to safer outcomes on our farms," Mr James said.
"The way things were logged was important, too, with a notification to the manager, ops manager, or safety manager to let them know so we can track speeding.
"We can then address specific incidents with people, and the ability to do that is what enabled that behavioural change."
The company is also looking to phase out all quad bikes on their properties and replace them with mainly side-by-side vehicles.
Mr James said there are further steps to develop safety measures, and the award shows how far the company has come concerning safety.
The inaugural award also recognised two other businesses implementing safety measures, including Stonyhurst Pastoral, which switched to the drone-driven mustering of its 13,000 sheep and 500 cattle after a serious motorbike incident.
The second business was Velisha National Farms, nominated for its commitment to improving the understanding of health and safety among culturally and linguistically diverse workers.
"Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries to work in," Mr James said.
"For WorkSafe to recognise agriculture in this award and demonstrate three examples of businesses that have a commitment to improving awareness and safety on farms within our ag industry is really positive," Mr James said.
The agriculture industry accounts for about 14 per cent of workplace fatalities while only making up two pc of Victoria's workforce.
Since 2019, 26 people have died in on-farm workplace incidents, including three in 2022.
"These statistics show the dire need for improvement in the agriculture industry, and we hope these success stories encourage more workplaces to think about how they can take a prevention-led approach towards health and safety," Dr Beer said.
She congratulated all the nominated businesses on taking steps to improve safety.
"It's so heartening to know that there are so many Victorian workers who are leading the way in workplace health and safety, and setting a positive examples for others in their industry."
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