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Two simple steps to a safer farm

Cotton picking is a busy time of the year, so safety is a key priority. There are some simple steps you can take before picking to ensure a safe workplace for yourself, your employees, your contractors and your family.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, farm owners, managers and employees have specific responsibilities and duties of care. It's up to the owner and/or manager to provide a safe workplace and safe work systems for all family members, employees, contractors and visitors to the farm.

But, it's also up to individual workers, contractors and visitors to take appropriate care for the health and safety of themselves and those who are on the property with them. To do this on farms, workers, contractors and visitors need to advise the owners or managers of any risks or hazards and comply with all health and safety advice, programs or policies that are put in place on the farm.

Risks at picking

There are many hazards associated with cotton picking - like those listed below. It's important that you have identified the hazards on your farm with your workers and have put plans in place to manage the risks:
  • Mechanical hazards – tractors and harvest machinery (pickers, boll buggies, module builders and telehandlers), farm motorbikes, quads, side-by-side vehicles, utes, trucks and chain beds).
  • Manual handling hazards – slips, trips, falls
  • Fatigue and stress
  • Biological hazards – dust
  • Solar radiation – working outdoors in heat and sunlight
  • Electrical – powerlines
  • Noise – causing hearing injuries.

Two simple steps to a safer farm:

1. Consultation.
Consult with your employees and contractors about WHS at picking. This is key to ensure workers are actively participating in the farm business WHS program. You could start each workday with a toolbox talk, helping to make safety an easy conversation for staff. If you do this, be sure to engage all participants and make notes in your diary. You could also use the cotton picking safety induction template for all contractors, farm staff and new workers. 

2.  Manage the risks.
Managing the risk involves four things:
  • Identify hazards: Walk around the workplace and identify the hazards before picking. Look for unsafe practices and equipment and record the hazards using this resource: Cotton picking HAZARD checklist.
  • Assess the risk: The Worksafe Risk Assessment Plan will help you assess each hazard in terms of its severity, how often the activity occurs and who might be harmed. 
  • Control the risk using the hierarchy of controls: The hierarchy, shown below, shows the steps to control a risk: Firstly, can you eliminate it? If not, can you substitute the hazard? If not, can you isolate the hazard from people? If not, then can you change the way people work and put in administrative controls (like signage)? Finally, use personal protective equipment to protect people.
  • Keep records: Keep written records of your WHS activities to be able to report, monitor and review your performance.

Important resources and templates:

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