Agriculture industry safety report must lead to change

Shadow Agriculture Minister Colin de Grussa has welcomed the release of the inquiry into the agricultural industry in Western Australia, which listed eight recommendations to improve safety.

The inquiry was established in June 2022 following the introduction of new Work Safety and Health laws in 2020 and 12 work-related deaths in the agriculture sector in the previous year.

Mr de Grussa said the Report to the WorkSafe Commissioner was a vital step forward in ensuring the safety of workers across the ag industry.

“The findings of this inquiry must be considered deeply by the McGowan Labor Government to ensure that every ag worker comes home safely each night,” Mr de Grussa said.

“The Opposition welcomes the recommendation to increase the focus on safety education, which we had previously called for to ensure compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2020.

“We know proactive and constructive collaboration between Government and ag sectors has worked in other jurisdictions and I call on the McGowan Government to adopt this system.”

Mr de Grussa said the recommendation for a dedicated team of inspectors was welcomed but assurances were needed about the team’s knowledge and expertise of the industry.

“It will be vital for the dedicated team to have a comprehensive understanding of the sector, especially the unique operating environments of each business,” he said.

“I am also less than convinced about the suggestion to impose yet another levy on primary producers to fund media campaigns and promotional activities regarding safety in agriculture.

“This is a function which should be funded internally through WorkSafe or in partnership with WorkCover WA, as has been suggested by the WorkSafe Commissioner.”

Mr de Grussa said appropriate support for agricultural businesses to engage with regulators on how to improve workplace safety was vital, given previously held fears of punitive action.

“Whenever the issue of work safety and health is raised with me by farmers, it is clear they care deeply about the safety of their staff in the workplace,” Mr de Grussa said.

“The culture of the regulator and their approach to improving safety in the agricultural sector must change, in order to drive change in the safety culture of the industry.

“We must build capacity and enhance the safety culture in the industry, rather than adopting a punitive ‘big stick’ approach from the outset.”