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Wool industry stakeholders to tackle workplace health and safety in shearing sheds

The development of practical materials to improve worker health and safety in shearing sheds, including how to tackle alcohol abuse and drugs such as ‘ice’, will now be developed following the formation of a wool industry Stakeholder Reference Group.

The Group, comprising the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF), the Australian Workers’ Union (AWU), the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia (SCAA) and WoolProducers Australia (WPA) has been formed to support farmers, contractors and employees when responding to reports of workplace health and safety risks involving alcohol and drugs.

NFF President Brent Finlay said the Group had agreed to ongoing dialogue on what is a complex issue, with the aim of developing workable solutions for everyone in the shearing industry.

“The use of drugs in the industry is a concern. A collaborative approach from the industry stakeholders is about protecting the farmer, the shearing contractor and the employee from those who turn up to work under the influence of either drugs or alcohol,” Mr Finlay said.

Shearing often involves working in remote rural areas, under a poorly defined chain of responsibility with unique hazards and risks. This means that clear and transparent processes are absolutely critical.
Brent Finlay, NFF President

The Group noted that the shearing industry operates in a unique environment which can make dealing effectively with workplace drug and alcohol use difficult.

“It’s not simply a case of sending someone home – often you are miles from the nearest town or police station and the affected person is in no condition to drive. An agreed set of operating procedures will help ensure we don’t end up in disputes down the track,” Mr Jason Letchford, SCAA Secretary said.

WoolProducers CEO Jo Hall said “a key aim of this collaboration is the development of practical guidance material so that everyone, from the employee to the wool grower, understands their role and responsibility in ensuring a safe workplace.”

The Stakeholder Reference Group met earlier this month to discuss practical ways to manage potential misuse of alcohol and other drugs in shearing sheds across Australia. The Group will now seek information from experts in the areas of workplace health and safety and the wider wool-industry before putting any resources developed out for wider consultation. The next meeting of the Group is due to take place before Christmas.

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