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Shearing Industry Stakeholders tackle drugs and alcohol

Some claim that there is an “ice epidemic” in rural Australia, while others suggest that while ice issues do exist, they are not in epidemic proportions.

Regardless of the extent of use in rural Australia, there is one thing that we can all agree on – drugs have no place in the shearing shed. For this reason, when the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) approached the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) late last year to work with them in addressing this issue, we worked swiftly to pull together an industry stakeholder group.

Over the past months, the Stakeholder Group consisting of the NFF, AWU, Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA), WoolProducers Australia (WPA), Australian Wool Exchange (AWEX) and Western Australian Shearing Industry Association (WASIA) has been working to develop practical solutions to drug and alcohol concerns in the shearing industry.

Everyone connected to the shearing operations has safety obligations, whether they are the woolgrower, contractor, shearer, shed hand or visitor so as a first step, we created a poster available for download here that outlines these obligations.


Drug & Alcohol Free Shed - Everyone is responsible for safety

The poster, displayed in the shed, makes safety expectations clear and can be an enabler for those tricky, uncomfortable conversations about the topic.

Following the poster, we have commenced drafting of a Shearing Industry Drug and Alcohol Policy that sets out clear expectations for behavior in sheds and contains procedures for identifying risks, dealing with someone who is not fit for work, education, counseling and rehabilitation. The policy was presented for feedback at the recent Summit in Adelaide.

The recent Summit in Adelaide pulled together a range of stakeholders including shearers, shearing contractors, wool growers and other industry parties. The line up of speakers included Natasha Jager, Alcohol and Drug Foundation, Jacqui Quarton, Safework SA, Glenn Haynes, Tafe SA Head of Shearer Training and Ewen Macintosh, New Zealand Shearing Contractor.

Safety is important because at the end of the day, everyone wants to go home from work safe and well. Anything that can impact on the behavior, judgment, concentration and coordination of someone in a workplace is a safety risk. Ice is one factor, but all drugs and alcohol are of concern. This message came out load and clear at the Summit as the range of expert speakers emphasized that while ice is a very concerning issue, the impacts of alcohol (including hangovers) and other drugs, including pharmaceutical misuse, is even more prevalent in the workplace. These have a clear impact on safety and productivity.

The Stakeholder Group will now reconvene in the coming month to process the feedback received at the Summit and finalise the policy document.

Kimberly Pearsall is the Advisor - Policy and Legal, National Farmers' Federation

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