FARM safety is a top priority for visiting Winston Churchill Fellowship holder Gillian McLean.
Hailing from Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, Ms McLean’s fellowship involves travelling to Australia and New Zealand to compare workplace health and safety practices and processes.
Ms McLean, a work safety inspector in Scotland, arrived in Australia last week and spent some time talking to Work Cover representatives in Sydney before arriving in Tamworth on Monday.
As part of her fellowship, Ms McLean is investigating how health and safety is approached in different countries and what works and what doesn’t.
During the past two days she has been escorted to local farms and agricultural businesses, under the guidance of local Work Cover principal inspector Russell Webb, and interviewed landholders and various experts about how safety procedures are rolled out and adhered to in Australia.
One of the stops on Ms McLean’s list yesterday was the Tamworth Ag Institute.
There, she talked with institute manager Bruce Terrill and Pro-Farm support officer Cassie Gardiner about how farmers were supported and offered advice in safe work practices.
“It’s been interesting,” Ms McLean said.
“I am hoping to be able to find out what lessons we can learn from the practices in place in Australia and New Zealand, how things work and if there are safety systems we would benefit from.”
Ms McLean said following visits to several properties, including Bective Feedlot, Baiada and Bede Burke’s farm on Monday, it appeared the standard of Australian workplace health and safety was high.
“There seems to be a lot invested in rolling out safety procedures,” she said.
One of the main differences between the Australian and British systems was funding, she said.
“Money is a huge issue when it comes to work health and safety in Britain. We have had a lot of cutbacks and, as a result, the approach has changed. I guess you could say agriculture has become a lesser priority. In place of proactive visits to individual farmers we are in a situation where field days are in place, because they are cheaper,” she said.
Following her visits to Australia and New Zealand, Ms McLean has three months to develop a report for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
After the report has been completed she has to try and disseminate her findings as widely as possible.
“The National Farmers’ Union of Britain has already expressed some interest, so that’s positive,” she said.