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    David Jochinke.

AgLife: Culture change key


An over-representation of deaths in agriculture has called for a rethink about workplace culture across Victorian farms. 

Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke believes the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude present on farms needs reconsideration if farms are to become safer. 

This comes after annual National Farmer Safety Week, July 20 to 25, where primary producers were reminded to think ‘safety first’ in an industry subjected to high numbers of injury and workplace deaths. 

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“The larrikin, knock-about or ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is a great part of our culture, but it can’t be a part of our businesses,” Mr Jochinke said. 

“We have to be pragmatic with how we do it, we can’t put everything in cotton wool, but we can understand the risks.”

Mr Jochinke said safety on farms was paramount because it concerned wellbeing of workmates and often family members. 

“You’ve got to demonstrate you’ve done due diligence to protect yourself, your employees and your loved ones – because farms are a business, but it’s also a home in many cases,” he said. 

“We need to make sure farmers reduce as much risk as we can. It can be as simple as writing a note in your workbook to say you’ve checked this machine on this day.” 

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes said on average two serious injuries occurred on Victorian farms every day and in the past five months six people died while working on a farm.

WorkSafe Victoria also recognised agriculture continued to be overly represented in workplace fatalities – farms employed just two percent of the Victorian workforce but accounted for one in seven workplace fatalities in 2019-20.

Mr Jochinke said part of improving safety was opening up safety conservations among workmates. 

“Agriculture represents more deaths than any other workplace in Victoria and Australia. That’s a stat we’re not proud of,” he said. 

“We need to own it and we need to have that safety-first culture in our vocabulary daily. 

“There are things that occur in agriculture that just shouldn’t – there are circumstances where shortcuts are taken.”

Mr Jochinke said farmers should always be looking to invest in equipment that would improve safety. 

“If we have a decent season, we should be investing in our operations to make them safer,” he said. 

“I know it’s hard when seasons are tough. But when seasons are good, that’s the opportunity to get on top of those bigger issues.”

Mr Jochinke sits on a newly formed Farm Safety Council, linking Victorian farming bodies such as Agriculture Victoria, to help reduce injuries or deaths in the industry. 

Following the formation of the council, the VFF also received $3-million from a ‘Making our Farms Safer’ State Government grant to employ two farm safety officers. 

The VFF will also use grant money to develop an online platform with a range of safety resources for Victorian farmers.

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire July 29, 2020 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!