Under the banner of CottonSafe, Cotton Australia is promoting an increased awareness of relevant Work Health and Safety (WHS) issues for the cotton growing industry. This includes developing practical and up-to-date resources for growers, contractors and workers to help identify, assess and control key health and safety risks on cotton farms. The aim is to reduce injury, legal and financial costs.
Cotton Australia is working in partnership with the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety, with resources available through this website. The myBMP Human Resource and Work Health Safety module also has extensive information, tools and resources to allow a self-assessment of farm safety.
Topics cover three main areas:
- Work Heath and Safety Law
- Cotton Grower's Responsibilities
- Work Health and Safety Risk Management
Work Health and Safety Law
Work Health and Safety legislation (WHS) in all States and Territories requires employers and managers to manage health and safety in the workplace.
National model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Act and regulations now exist and have been used to harmonise State health and safety laws.
As of the 1st January 2012, Queensland, Northern Territory, ACT and New South Wales have adopted the revised Work Health and Safety legislation, albeit with some changes and transitional considerations that differ between the States / Territory.
Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and South Australia have agreed to the principles but, for various reasons, have delayed the implementation of these laws.
To support the Act and regulations, Safe Work Australia has also developed model Codes of Practice for adoption by the States. There are currently 11 finalised Codes of Practice, with a further 15 draft Codes released for public comment. The development of Codes of Practice is ongoing. However, until the revised Codes of Practice are adopted, the existing State / Territory Codes of Practice can be used.
Cotton Grower's Responsibilities
The current Work Health and Safety Act supports similar safety objectives as previous legislation: to protect the health, safety and welfare of workers and the public. However, there are changes to the way this is managed.
Whereas the Duty of Care previously referred to the employer, this responsibility is now given to a 'Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking', or PCBU. WHS laws now impose duties outside the scope of a direct employer-employee relationship, including all people who do work such as contractors, sub-contractors and volunteers. There is also a considerable increase in fines and penalties for breaches of WHS law.
A Duty of Care is now imposed on officers of a company. Officers may be directors or secretaries of the company, board members who have significant decision-making power over the company and trustees, to name a few. The Duty of Care can apply to several duty holders at the same time, ensuring that no one can pass off their WHS responsibilities.
There is an increased emphasis on consultation and communication within the new WHS Act that extends beyond previous Acts. A PCBU is now required to consult with workers, but also with other duty holders / PCBUs.
The WHS Regulations support the Act and impose duties on the PCBU to eliminate or manage the risks in certain areas. e.g. when working with hazardous chemicals, work involving electricity, working in confined spaces or at height.
The Regulations require the identification of hazards and control of risks following a hierarchy. Risk Assessments are only required in certain circumstances where straight-forward controls are not readily known or available. Information on how to control hazards and risk can be found in Codes of Practice, Standards, Safety Guides and resources such as myBMP.
Responsibilities of cotton growers include:
- Consulting with workers to implement WHS programs
- Providing a safe workplace and organising safe systems of work
- Maintaining work areas, machinery and equipment in a safe condition
- Ensuring safe use, handling, storage and transport of plant, hazardous chemicals and dangerous goods
- Assessing the health and safety risks to employees and others in the workplace, and taking effective risk control measures
- Providing adequate information, induction, instruction, training and supervision to employees
- Providing facilities for the welfare of workers.
For cotton growers, farm managers and company officers it is important to understand the changes to WHS laws and how they affect your operations.
Work Health and Safety Risk Management
The most important first step to improving safety on farms is to identify all the hazards to health and safety on the farm.
Where a hazard has been identified, then an assessment of the risk associated with the hazard must be made. The degree of risk is a combination of the potential severity of injury and the frequency of exposure to the hazard. In all instances where there is significant risk of serious injury or death, urgent action to fix the problem should be planned.
Once hazards of significant risk have been identified then action should be planned and implemented to control that risk. Generally, eliminating the hazard is the most effective solution and every effort should be made to eliminate hazards. However, practicalities and cost often limit this option, referred to as reasonably practicable. From most to least effective, control measures include:
- Eliminating the risk
- Substituting the risk for a lesser risk
- Engineering controls, including design for safety, guarding and other isolation solutions
- Designing safer work procedures, practices and training
- Using personal protective equipment.
Contact the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety on 02 6752 5074 or visit your state WHS authority website to find more information: