Report released following inquiry into WA agriculture sector


Wednesday, 19 April, 2023

Report released following inquiry into WA agriculture sector

The report on the WorkSafe Commissioner’s independent Inquiry into the Agricultural Industry has been released, with most of its recommendations supported and under consideration. The Commissioner indicated his support for the majority of the recommendations, though two have been noted as they will require further work or consultation if the WA Government wishes to progress them. The Inquiry was conducted last year by former Chief Industrial Relations Commissioner Pamela Scott when WorkSafe Commissioner Darren Kavanagh called for it in June after the 12th workplace death in the industry over the preceding 12 months.

A total of 62 written submissions to the Inquiry were received and Scott held community meetings in person across the state and a series of webinars for those who could not attend in person. Scott also had meetings with more than 25 individuals and organisations, either in person or by telephone, to discuss safety issues in the industry. The result is a comprehensive report on health and safety in the agricultural industry that presents the findings and delivers eight recommendations that have been supported or noted by the WorkSafe Commissioner and Director General of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

The recommendations include the establishment of a specialist agricultural team of inspectors and liaison officers and an advisory service, to conduct inspections, attend industry events and develop advisory material for the industry. The report also recommends raising industry awareness of safety with the participation of industry groups, including specific agricultural industry web pages and the utilisation of public events to educate farmers. A suite of codes of practice and guidance notes, directed to the agricultural industry, is also recommended, written as a simple ‘how-to’ and ‘how-not-to’ document. Timely information should also be given to the industry about the causes of fatalities and serious injuries.

The WorkSafe Commissioner expressed his gratitude to Scott for the Inquiry and assured the industry that he generally supported its recommendations and plans to consult the state government on the recommendations that require government action.

“I called for the independent Inquiry because I was increasingly concerned with the number of deaths in the industry. The statistics were not acceptable and I was concerned that the number of deaths had continued to increase. I was concerned that in some agricultural workplaces, the workplace culture seemed to accept much greater risk than any other industry, with farm production appearing to be put before the safety of families and workers,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh will now work with industry stakeholders, worker representatives and peak bodies to drive work health and safety improvements in the agricultural sector, in line with the recommendations of the report. The report and the Commissioner’s response are available on the WorkSafe Commissioner’s website.

Image credit: iStock.com/Nicholas Smith

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