Farmer Wants a Healthy Life

The Auditor - Man on a Mission

December 24, 2021 West Wimmera Health Service Season 2 Episode 4
The Auditor - Man on a Mission
Farmer Wants a Healthy Life
More Info
Farmer Wants a Healthy Life
The Auditor - Man on a Mission
Dec 24, 2021 Season 2 Episode 4
West Wimmera Health Service

In this episode John Darcy tells us what he does as part of the Make Our Farms Safer project. He shares what to expect from a Farm Safety Consult (free for Victorian farmers). He also shares information about other services (see full list below) the project provides. 

You can reach the Make Our Farms Safer team at 1300 882 833, to book an audit with John. 

Interested in the topic and looking for more?

Making Our Farms Safer is a Victorian Farmers Federation project. The aim of the project is to deliver free safety tools and services across Victoria. These tools and services have a focus on safety, wellbeing and mental health. 


The available services include:


The project also has a range of handbooks available on different aspects of farm safety.

Are you a woman that wants to help advocate for farm safety? Plant a Seed for Safety is a project by farm safety advocate Alex Thomas. The project shares rural women's stories of encouraging safety on farms. 

Looking for more information about Farm Safety? Check out the National Centre for Farmer Health, Farm Safe Australia, Better Health Channel or Work Safe websites.


Join the conversation
Facebook: @FarmerWantsaHealthyLife                                Twitter: @_FWAHL

Facebook: @FarmerWantsaHealthyLife Twitter: @_FWAHL

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode John Darcy tells us what he does as part of the Make Our Farms Safer project. He shares what to expect from a Farm Safety Consult (free for Victorian farmers). He also shares information about other services (see full list below) the project provides. 

You can reach the Make Our Farms Safer team at 1300 882 833, to book an audit with John. 

Interested in the topic and looking for more?

Making Our Farms Safer is a Victorian Farmers Federation project. The aim of the project is to deliver free safety tools and services across Victoria. These tools and services have a focus on safety, wellbeing and mental health. 


The available services include:


The project also has a range of handbooks available on different aspects of farm safety.

Are you a woman that wants to help advocate for farm safety? Plant a Seed for Safety is a project by farm safety advocate Alex Thomas. The project shares rural women's stories of encouraging safety on farms. 

Looking for more information about Farm Safety? Check out the National Centre for Farmer Health, Farm Safe Australia, Better Health Channel or Work Safe websites.


Join the conversation
Facebook: @FarmerWantsaHealthyLife                                Twitter: @_FWAHL

Facebook: @FarmerWantsaHealthyLife Twitter: @_FWAHL

Brigitte

This is a West Wimmera Health Service podcast. 


Presented by me, Brigitte Muir. 


Work safe compliance is not everyone's cup of tea, right? Today, we meet someone who can’t get it off of it. John Darcy OH&S and workers compensation expert, thrives on helping victorious farmers make their farms not only compliant, but safer. He is a consultant with the free of charge Making Our Farms Safer Project, and what does he do when he's called to a farm?


John

Well…There's two services we provide, through the funding we're provided with department Ag; we can do safety audits on farms. An audit will infer that the farmer has some paperwork in place, has some OHS policies, procedures, that consult with their employees and keeping detailed records. And so, if you're going there on the basis of audit, you're looking at that material. With the vast majority of our farmers, when they ring me up and say I want an audit, that that they often respond what paperwork, to which I respond, “You don't need an audit, you need a consultancy”. It's where we actually start often from a zero base, sitting down with Mom and Dad's small business and talking them through what they need to know. So, this morning the farm I went… visited a sheep property was with the father who was in his early 70s and his son. I spent a good two and a half hours with them at… at the dining table, and then we did a walk around which took about an hour and a quarter or so. 


Brigitte

Okay, so you look at everything on the farm as far as safety goes?


John

Yeah so, our…our main walk around is around the obviously the farm buildings that are in close proximity to the house. So, we will start typically in the workshop area… where the tools, and the grinders, and the acetylene equipment, and a lot of the things I do the hands on type work. We will go into the shearing sheds, cattle yards if it's on a cattle property. We will go into the chemical stores …and look at the adequacy of the chemical storage. We'll look at their tractors, we'll look at their machinery. When we go around for a walk around, we’re…we’re finding things, that we will see typically is first aid kits being adequate or fire extinguishers out of date are not sufficient, grain augers without guards on them, PTR guards missing from, from attachments for the tractors and machinery. 


So, our primary objective is looking at the things that if I have a visit from WorkSafe, what would an inspector possibly pick up on, what an inspector may possibly issue them with a notice for and we'll put extra emphasis on those things, say to them, “look you really should fix that”. When we do the walk around, that's where they take the pen and paper with them, writing pad and write down their to do list.


Brigitte

Okay, it sounds like a very important thing to do. To guarantee safety on the farm.


John

I'm passionate about small business, from my previous working experience with employer associations. I've been with about 1500 Small Business, businesses, over about 15 years and I realised that it's very hard for people running a business. With OHS, they're not going to go off and do an OHS training course for days or weeks on end. So, the time we spend with them at the dining table for many, is as much training or knowledge as they’re ever going to get. So, it's really, really important. 


So, the law doesn't differentiate between small or large. If something goes wrong, they're exposed. So, we want to try and obviously protect them, but help them to understand what their legal obligations are.


Brigitte

WorkSafe inspectors can actually turn up at the farm at any time and check if everything is okay.


John

That is a very good point, so, to the first point, yes. WorkSafe have a legal authority to enter any place that is workplace on any given day, and WorkSafe have run those sorts of TV advertisements from time to time saying, ‘Well yes, we can visit your workplace on any day’. And they don't have the time, nor resources, to consult with the employers about all of their OH&S duties, which are fairly wide ranging and encompassing. Often they’ll limit themselves to just focusing on a couple of hazards. You could have one inspector rock into a farm, and see a few hazards… possibly issue notices, you go another inspector rock in the next day, find three or four other things. But if something goes wrong the prosecution arm of WorkSafe would say but you ought to have known about those things because that was your legal duty as an employer. 


I don’t believe that people set out to hurt anybody. I do believe that they honestly, and genuinely sincerely believe they provide a safe workplace. But often that's instinctive, it's in their mind or in their hearts. And often they have nothing to show for it. When we talk about the Act and Regulations, we're talking about an Act which is, applies to all employers before space legislation that just outlines the key rules, but that's backed up by then by regulations and there’s plant, manual handling chemical safety, asbestos, noise and farmers are expected to know that detail.


Brigitte

What if it's just a one person farm?


John

So the law… the OHS Law apply to employers duties to provide a safe workplace for their employees… and subcontractors ….and also other persons being members of the public, and even to… potentially even families. Yes, if a subcontractor for example, when you're talking about self-employed sheep farmers, for example, often they’ll have just them or their family who run the farm, typically for the most part of the year, but then they’ll bring a shearing crew in for a week or so. 


Employers have the same duty of care the subcontractors, as they do their own employees in relation to matter for which they have control. An employer can defend themselves on the basis they employee suitably qualified contractors to bring in, specialised skills. For example, spreader companies who do work out in paddocks and  the like, they bring in the equipment, they bring in the materials and the farmers….the farmer can rely upon their expertise. But with shearers for example, well the farmer provides the shearing sheds, the farmer provides lunchroom, the amenities for them, the first aid kits, they just come in and bring their combs, and their shears and get to work. But the farmer has a much greater capacity to control their, their work. Those workers… which we talk to the farmer about the importance of doing an induction, just running through the policy procedures, when the workers start, taking him through their emergency procedures…report precedures, reporting of accidents and making sure the workers know what the safety expectations are, and also the things that the farmer has put in place to make sure that they are safe.


Brigitte

I wonder how often farmers… actually do inductions when they get a new crew in? Because, in my experience, accidents happen in familiarity breeds contempt. So, you don't really …once you've done it once, maybe you'll think oh, well they'll remember, you know, but you have to do it, every time you've got someone in the do you?


John

It’s not something you do once, it's something you do continuously. So, one of the things you'll cover in an induction… would be your policies and procedures. We also encourage the employer you don't just use them once, you use them periodically, systematically throughout the year within the business. But the induction is the most critical time of all. How, how, you explain to the employer, the farmer and let's recognise that that they are both, and to the employer, we need to explain to them that one of the primary legal duties is a duty to adequate training, instruction and supervision. And that training and instruction…. on day one when someone starts, especially young workers, cause young workers more and more important, others perhaps, although we can't differentiate but you with younger workers, instilling that confidence in them, that you take safety seriously, you're looking after them by telling them what they need to know. And that will go for example, though to even explain to them a bullying policy. Have a bullying policy, “yes, young worker, we recognise the vulnerability. You're going to work with older workers have the confidence to come and talk to us, should you have any concerns. Here's our policy”, and that and that instils a good workplace culture where they walk in confident, they know that the employer is serious about their safety and can have the confidence that if there's a problem, they'll come to the boss and tell them.


Brigitte

It's good to hear. It's not just physical safety, it's also mental safety


John

Oh indeed the law is quite clear on that. And that's actually a big area of focus at the moment. So, at this moment WorkSafe are putting out papers to union and employer represent… representatives on regulations for, for psychological health, so will become part of OHS law. It has been, it's been captured under the Act. But now specific, more detail and regulation and regulations probably won't be far away also to encompass sexual harassment. 


Irrespective whether those things have been prescribed in the law, as it was before … We've always talked to the employers about how important having bullying policy and sexual harassment policies, but I'd probably stress to employers now those things are going to become more critical.


Brigitte

And people tend to talk more about those things that happened to them, on social media and everything. So it really does pay to be prepared for any eventuality.


John

And… so the notion of in terms of physical accident, the complacency or the.. it'll never happen to me type attitude. Similarly, a lot of employers would be oblivious to the risks of having a mental health complaint, or a bullying type claim in their business. Now I've helped… with my experience with OHS, but also workers compensation I have helped employers with WorkCover claims for, for bullying even in cases was five to six employees, were ….unbeknownst to the boss, two workers might just not get on, and one may just push the envelope a little bit too far with something, then you have someone off with a severe medical illness, but employers often overlook the importance of talking about bullying, harassment, discrimination, so you need to factor in both those conversations.


Brigitte

How often do farmers …ask for an audit?


John

It's not a question of how often, so much, as can they, that would be the first thing and I'm strongly encouraging that. With the services we provide they are free to all Victorian farmers. So not just VFF members, the contract we have is with the Department of Ag. As I said for many businesses, they would …take that service up once. When we meet with them, because of the breadth of detail we go through we explain to them, the best way to manage safety is with a plan and we give them a roadmap to work to based on all the advice we give them, and easy to follow handbook and give them all a policy procedure templates free of charge. And we suggest to them put a stake in the ground, have a crack at taking, go through their six-month plan. We also say to them, if it takes you over 10 to 12 months, that's okay. But then what we do is we call them up every six months to say “how ya going and would you like us come back?”.  I've been with some businesses over the years where I've been with them 2,3,4 times, that's …that's a good thing. One of the challenges we have is a reluctance, from some employers, a fear, well for the first… they don't have any concern whatsoever, that we're going to be critical in any way shape or form, what they do or don't have, because that's the point. They shouldn't be concerned about anything getting back to WorkSafe. WorkSafe, love what we do and very supportive, and very happy that we're able to do what we're doing. There's no conflict of interest there. So that should address the any mishap reactions, but really, it's just …the confidence for a farmer to say, I'm going to have to put that stake in the ground call and start the journey.


Brigitte

Exactly. It's never too late to start that journey.


John

Every time we get a phone call. We're happy to take it and we get the diary out and make it happen.  Myself and Richard are covering the state from top to bottom. So I looked at by a odometer on the car and I've done about 35,000k’s since the start of the year.


Brigitte

Crikey


John

Yeah… I've seen a lot of Victoria. We're also running a lot of events, townhall events, I would say a lot of the important work is actually engaging with the masses, where we can get them in a room together because we do a lot of education in those spaces as well on specific issues.


Brigitte

Where can people find information on those sessions that you run in town?


John

Through we, we publicise them through radio and, and media channels as best we can with….


Brigitte

Is there a Facebook page or Twitter page


John

There is, yes. So, we have the Making Our Farm Safer page on both Twitter and Facebook and I strongly encourage people. We've established a monthly farm safety newsletter and I'm thrilled with how that's going, it's getting around 1500 reads per month, and its six editions in. Through the newsletters we're doing as much education, as we can. We're also filling in a lot of knowledge gaps. Our ambition is not just to do consultancies or audits, is to educate and support…. and the other thing we provide as part of the program, Making Our Farm Safer Program, is what are refer to as farm safety walk and talks. That's where a farmer could… avail their farm to us with a few of their neighbours. And we would go and meet with them as a group. We could shoot the breeze on a board range of safety issues, for half hour,40 minutes, though… and then do a walk around as an indicative sort of walk around what we might see. But then we'd probably be saying to those other farmers, get us to the dinging table. 


We're very keen to engage with …regional networks such as Landcare groups… and CWA groups ,and other farming groups that are in the regions. We'll make ourselves available to attend those as well. We have way too many deaths on farms, when we see quad bikes side by side with vehicles and tractors, well then we have to be clear with farmers, you must fit APDs on your bikes. You must put the PTO guards on the tractors, ya must ensure that workers are wearing the seatbelts, when they're riding the side by sides. That's the education piece. So, it's it goes part and parcel with the work we're doing.


Brigitte

You're doing an amazing job, John, and I thank you very much for spending a bit of time with me today, and enlightening me and our listeners on safety on the farm and the free audits and consultancies you do for farmers everywhere in Victoria. 


John

Thank you. 


Brigitte

That was John Darcy from the Making Our Farms Safer team. You will find as always contact numbers and details in the notes attached to this episode. And while you're at it, please give us a star rating. We'd also love to hear your comments and suggestions. Our Facebook and Twitter details are in the notes. Until next have a healthy life won’t you.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai edited by WWHS Health Promotion