In early June 20915, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) provided a case study of agricultural safety and the importance of safety culture – Raby Stud, part of Hassad Australia. The study shows great potential but the promotion of this case study would be more convincing if more OHS detail was available and if there was better coordination of its media.
RIRDC emphasised that:
“The injury rate is now close to zero at ‘Raby Stud’, near Warren in New South Wales, thanks to the attitude that ‘it won’t happen to me’ is simply not good enough to ensure everyone gets home safely to their families every night.”
The media release was supported by a video*. These provide a clear indication of the level of redesign and review that the working environments and OHS policies and practices have undergone at Raby. The company’s Assistant HSE Manager, Shea O’Neill, is quoted saying:
“The culture of safety in the workplace at Raby Stud, and all Hassad Australia’s aggregations, is driven from senior management all the way down to the most junior farm hand. We have systems in place and the staff are empowered to carry these out on the ground….
“This means things like maintaining vehicles and equipment safely, using safety equipment like helmets on motor bikes, providing proper training for staff, and regular audits of safety across the business to keep standards up.”
All of this seems to support the contemporary approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) that a safety culture starts from the executives but it is unclear what motivated Hassad Australia to undertake this strategy. Was there a serious injury? Is there an enlightened Board? Has the OHS regulator targeted Hassad recently? Was the economics of safety investigated and a safety business case made? SafetyAtWorkBlog has contacted Hassad Australia for additional details on this issues.
Hassad Australia is part of Hassad Foods, the agricultural arm of the Qatar government, and is investing in Australia in order to improve food security. The RIRDC reports and statements certainly indicate that Hassad Australia is managing OHS well. The company has replaced its quad bikes with side-by-side vehicles, for instance. It has recruited safety professionals from other industry sectors and the OHS statements fit with contemporary OHS approaches, and it has engaged with the Australian Government in programs such as RIRDC’s Primary Industries Health & Safety Partnership (PIHSP).
Raby Stud Property Manager Ashley Bell is quoted on the YouTube page as saying that
“At Raby Stud we have a set of policies to work by, to keep the place safe. In many cases, our changes haven’t been time consuming or costly, and could be implemented in any farming operation.”
But in the video itself, Bell says that safety:
“…is a big expense but, on the other hand, it’s a big expense when you have staff off maimed or lost a leg or injured or, in some cases, perhaps it’s… could be killed.”
There is little doubt that the cost of prevention is better than the cost of repair but the messages coming from RIRDC is confusing and, on such an important consideration as cost, the RIRDC should be crystal clear.
The case study offered by RIRDC is of OHS significance but more details of the safety performance is required to be convincing and to encourage other agricultural companies and farmers to follow suit. For instance O’Neill says in the video that the three-tiered strategy has had a “profound impact” on injury rates showing a “significant decline.” Numbers should have been available to support this, instead we are told that the stud’s “injury rate is now close to zero”. The rate of improvement which would contextualise the OHS return-on-investment would give much more validity to RIRDC’s promotion of safety culture, and PIHSP, at Raby Stud.
The Hassad Australia safety program seems very good but more detail should be made available to verify the case study. The message would also have benefited from closer attention to OHS in the production of the video and better consistency in what is being said and quoted.
* Paying close attention to the safety practices on display in the video, I would question the white framed safety(?) glasses not being worn while cleaning of the shearing shed with a blower. And there seems to be no hearing protection worn.
Lastly, one of the workers has a high visibility shirt that has faded so badly that it defeats its purpose.