As the cotton picking season begins, health and safety expert John Temperley outlines the importance of safety inductions, responsibilities and how to conduct them.
Safety induction – an introduction
An induction assists an owner or employer (a person conducting a business or undertaking - PCBU), to meet their duty of providing a safe workplace. Safety induction and training is done in conjunction with identifying hazards such as guarding exposed machinery, to eliminate or control the risk of injury.
What is the purpose of a safety induction?
Safety Induction is the first step that you will take with your workers (including contractors) to be sure they have the information and skills that they need to work safely. This includes following safety instructions given to them to help them look after their own safety and the safety of others while at work on your farm.
A General Safety Induction is conducted when each worker or contractor first comes to work on the farm. This is a broad introduction to how you manage safety on your farm. It is also the time to make sure that people are aware of the key hazards and risks that may be present – for example, narrow irrigation crossings that need to be taken when driving around the farm; routes that trucks should take when carting modules, overhead power lines that pickers and module builders may pose a risk of contact and electrocution.
Before new work is carried out, training and instruction should be part of showing the worker how to do the job safely. For example, operating plant and machinery, cultivating, operating module builders, driving boll buggies and pickers.
Even if your new worker has been doing the same jobs on other farms, do not assume they have the information and skills to do the job safely on your farm, or with your equipment. Additionally, where you may have the same team of individuals contracted in on an annual basis, it is important to repeat the safety induction for your farm each year, so as to reinforce your safety requirements and systems.
Safety induction is NOT effective if you just give a worker something to read and sign. It is not just about laying down the law. You must be as sure as you can be that the worker understands what you mean and is ready to play his or her safety role.
Why must we do safety induction?
Generally we cannot assume that any worker starting work on the farm is aware of his or her responsibilities in health and safety.
Further, workers generally will not be aware of your responsibilities as an employer or manager, ensuring the safety of the workplace, and the need for their cooperation to ensure that you can fulfil your responsibility.
Do not assume that a new worker has the skills needed to carry out all farm jobs safely.
The farmer/ farm manager is required to:
- Inform the worker of his/ her responsibilities and those of the employer.
- Inform the worker of the specific hazards of work on the farm and of relevant rules and expected safe practice.
- Assess the skills of the farm worker to ensure that jobs are undertaken in such a way that the safety of the worker is protected.
- Train the worker so that the necessary safety skills are developed.
When to conduct a safety induction
The best time to properly communicate your role and your expectations of workers and contractors in relation to health and safety is when they first begin working.
Once a worker has started, if you notice that your worker is not taking the safety action that you expect, it is MUCH more difficult to have a discussion about safety in a positive and constructive way if there has been no induction.
If you have not agreed upon the rules at the beginning, safety will become a PROBLEM and will not be seen as one of your business’s CORE VALUES. Your workers need to see that safety is part of the job when working on your farm.
If you do it at the outset, it then becomes a straightforward matter to take up safety issues with the worker at any time and for the worker to communicate with you about his or her safety concerns.
How to conduct a safety induction
Set aside some time to do the induction. It may be done individually or with a new group of workers before picking.
Be mindful of literacy and make sure that the workers understand what is required. This is especially true for young workers and those from overseas who may not have English as their first language or have never worked on a farm, such as backpackers. Remember - slang and jargon can confuse safety instructions, so be careful to ensure the messages you are sending are understood. You will have to explain their work requirements and safety directions - such as staying hydrated, and what to do in an emergency - in more detail.
- the cotton best management practice program – myBMP – has detailed modules dealing with safety induction and other workplace safety practices. Click here for more information on myBMP
- Click here to see more Cottonsafe resources, including downloads such as the ‘Cotton Picking Safety Induction Template’
- Click here to go to the Cotton Australia ‘Cottonsafe’ page
Still have questions?
For further help, please contact John Temperley at the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety:
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