The November 2018 Agribusiness Hazard & Risk quarterly update is brought to you by Richard Read, Insurance House Risk Management Consultant.
Fatigue is an issue which may not be adequately managed by individual workers and also businesses. Fatigue does affect safety in workplaces, particularly in hot rural work. With many farms across Australia commencing harvest shortly it is imperative to be aware of the risks of fatigue on workers in your business.
Fatigue reduces alertness which can cause errors and increase injuries, particularly when a fatigued worker is operating fixed or mobile plant, including driving vehicles, undertaking critical tasks that require a high level of concentration, and during night or shift work.
The long-term impact can contribute to the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression. It can be caused by a combination of work, environment, lifestyle and social factors, and general wellbeing issues.
Tired muscles can recover with rest, but the brain can only recover with sleep - an adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep daily. Just one sleepless night can increase the risk of being involved in an accident.
The risks associated with fatigue can be managed by:
- identifying the factors which are causing fatigue
- What are the potential risks for workers who are fatigued in your business
- controlling risks by implementing the most effective control measures reasonably practicable in the circumstances
- reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned.
Review your work practices and consider the following:
- develop a fatigue management policy in consultation with workers.
- plan for situations where workers may have to work longer hours and shifts (i.e. harvest time) – such as ensuring they get breaks and are hydrated
- encourage workers to report fatigue concerns and seek worker input on the development of controls and workplace issues
- conduct safety audits, review risk management policy and hold frequent WHS meetings
- provide appropriate induction and training.
In Agriculture, depending on the activity it is worth looking at ways to reduce fatigue in the work environment. This may be working in the cooler part of the day, lighter quad bike helmets, providing worker amenities and good accommodation for rest and sleep, rosters that allow enough rest. Shade cover of the main work areas in yards as well as yard design for efficient flow of livestock. You also should provide and maintain safe, fit-for-purpose plant, machinery and equipment, and ensure appropriate training according to the environment and employee’s level of skill.
Personal factors can be improved by discussing the symptoms of fatigue and healthy lifestyle behaviours such as good nutrition, hydration, physical activity, drug and alcohol management and stress management.
Insurance House in-conjunction with Read Consulting work with our clients in developing fatigue management policies to increase awareness and develop strategies to reduce the effects of fatigue for workers and businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help you.
State WorkSafe Regulator
Read Consulting recently worked with several clients who have had areas to address from their state safety regulator (WorkSafe). These have been in regards to various safety improvements for their business:
- Improvement Notice to implement a Bullying and Harassment Policy (Nerida Mitchell HR Manager for Read Consulting) has strong experience in developing Bullying and Harassment policies, training as well as mediation when required.
- Implementation of a WHS Management System for a client who did not have any safety policies or procedures
- WHS Audit to improve safety across the farm business prior to a visit from a WorkSafe inspector.
In each of these situations, the client has been proactive in working with Read Consulting and we were able to jointly achieve a positive outcome in meeting WorkSafe requirements.
Worker’s arm partially amputated in quad bike collision with mechanical pruner (Workplace Health & Safety Queensland)
In August 2018, a worker’s arm was partially amputated when the quad bike he was operating collided with a mechanical pruner. One worker was operating a mechanical pruner attached to the front of a tractor to prune the bottom branches from macadamia trees. Another worker was operating a quad bike nearby. The quad bike and its operator contacted the pruner resulting in a partial arm amputation. Investigations are continuing.
Preventing a similar incident
Quad bikes have become very popular farm vehicles in recent years. Safe operation of quad bikes is essential in all situations, or they can be very dangerous.
On steep terrain or when driven at low or high speed, quad bikes can be very unstable due to their light weight and high centre of gravity. This is made worse by a tendency to overload them and fit inappropriate attachments.
PCBUs must ensure:
- a quad bike is the right tool for the task
- a helmet and other personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection is supplied
- never let children under 16 ride adult-sized quad bikes
- proper instruction and training are provided and understood by the rider.
The quad bike’s fitness for the purpose should be assessed prior to its use. Consider whether:
- there is another item of farm machinery that could provide a safer operation, i.e. a side-by-side vehicle, small tractor or utility
- fitting equipment (such as crush protection devices) that will minimise the risk of injury from possible rollover
- the quad bike is maintained to manufacturer's specifications, including equipment such as brakes are working and tyres are inflated to the correct pressure
- all guards are in place, particularly foot plates
- all controls are adjusted so they can be operated comfortably and safely when seated.
Quad bike operators should:
- always wear a helmet and other personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection
- be trained or have sufficient experience before operating a quad bike, particularly when riding on steep slopes, at speed or with attachments
- never allow passengers on the quad bike unless it has been specifically designed to carry two people
- have sufficient strength, weight and agility to operate safely and to react quickly to changing terrain or conditions
- be aware of heat stress, fatigue or other limiting conditions which may affect concentration while operating a quad bike.
Be aware of the risk of:
- being struck by an object
- striking an object hidden by long grass such as logs and rocks, the location of drains and other hazards
- a leg being caught in rear tyre, chain or footrest
- attachments or loads being too heavy, unequally distributed or not secure
- the risks posed by poor maintenance of brakes, suspension and tyres.
Human Resources Update External v Internal Investigations
When bullying or sexual harassment allegations are made, it is sometimes easy to jump straight to undertaking an internal investigation’ so as not to involve anyone more than needed. The benefits of engaging an external consultant have substantial benefits, an external investigation and review into the matter, ensure there is no impression of bias or unfairness to either party.
External investigations give the organisation the advantages of:
· Maintaining integrity, fairness.
· Obtaining outside experience and without bias
· Instils trust in the process undertaken by all involved
Those involved in incidents that have been investigated independently are likely to feel heard and supported, with the assistance of an external consultant the organisation can proceed to resolution and next steps confidently.
As mentioned above Read Consulting has recently been involved in reviewing, consultation and finalisation of Bullying and Harassment policy and subsequent roll-out and training to all staff.
For assistance in impartial external investigations into bullying, sexual harassment, harassment prevention policy development or any other HR matters, Read Consulting Group has a HR Specialist (Nerida Mitchell) who can assist, contact email@example.com to learn more.
The Insurance House Agri Hazard & Risk quarterly updates are agribusiness risk consultant Richard Read of Read Consulting. The next edition will be published in early 2019, subscribe here to receive updates Insurance House.