Safety a top priority for Western Australian sheep producer Will Browne

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Western Australian sheep producer Will Browne had been working alone at his Warradarge Hill farm until recently when he increased the farm size to 10,000 hectares and his Merino flock to 10,000 ewes.

With three new permanent staff members and a flourishing business, Mr. Browne decided it was time to make safety a priority in his farm through the adoption of a formalised work health and safety (WHS) plan.

“Previously being an operation with no employees, I was able to get by with a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety, but now with the safety of a new team to consider, it’s time to really ramp it up,” Mr. Browne said.

“There are quite a few people involved in the sheep side of the business with shearers, truck drivers, and lamb marking contractors, so we’ve decided to adopt a formal but easy-to-follow plan that will help make my family, staff and contractors safer and more productive.

“The idea is to make health and safety a priority for our team, and get everyone in the habit of thinking about the safest and most efficient ways to tackle every task that they do.”

Through his role as chairman of the livestock committee for West Midlands Group – a local crop and pasture research group – Mr. Browne recently had the opportunity to work on a new WHS sheep manual with Associate Professor Tony Lower from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety.

Mr. Browne was asked to provide feedback on the manual after “ground-truthing” sections of the document on his own-farm. It’s through this process that Mr. Browne decided to make safety a priority in his farm.

“As a father of four school children I am conscious of the safety hazards on the farm, but by the same token I want my kids to learn about agriculture and enjoy growing up on the farm as I did,” he said.

“Now that we are improving the culture of safety on our farm, our policy states that no-one works in the stockyards alone, regardless of whether they’re adults or children.”

The new stockyards policy was developed during the first ever Warradarge Hill tailgate (informal safety) meeting that was held earlier this year.

“To ensure there are no dangerous incidents now and in the future, we all agreed that two people were required in the sheep (and cattle) yards at all times, whether they’re back-lining, weighing or even drafting sheep,” Mr. Browne said.

Besides creating a safe working environment, the two-people policy ensures potential maintenance issues in the sheep yards are easily noticed, thus increasing productivity, according to Mr. Browne.

“Simple stuff like maintaining good latches in the yards not only makes it safer for the workers to open and close the gates, but it will potentially ensure the mob doesn’t get mixed up and cost us hours re-drafting,” he said.

“Time equals money in our game, particularly now we’re growing. For us, implementing a formal WHS plan comes at a very low cost and we believe it makes good business sense.”

Source: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation

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