WorkSafe, Labour Hire Authority and Department of Health inspectors are visiting farms around Shepparton this month to help the region have a safe harvest.
An information session will be held on 10 February from 5pm-7pm at the Parklake Hotel, Shepparton to provide employers with practical and constructive advice about how to comply with occupational health and safety regulations, stay COVID-safe and support vulnerable workers.
The informal session will give employers the opportunity to speak with inspectors and ask questions to ensure their business is operating safely. Agriculture Victoria representatives will also be there to answer questions growers may have about accessing seasonal workers and the support available.
A three-day inspection program will follow from 23-25 February with inspectors visiting orchards and packing sheds in the area.
WorkSafe Regional Operations Director Kate Maheras said it had been a difficult time for the horticultural industry due to the ongoing pandemic and resulting shortage of seasonal workers.
“This harvest is presenting new challenges and it’s more important than ever that health and safety remains a priority so that businesses can continue to operate safely and smoothly and give seasonal workers confidence that these workplaces are meeting their responsibilities,” she said.
“I would encourage employers to head along to the information session prior to the visits to learn about what we will be looking at and ensure they fully understand their obligations before inspectors arrive.”
WorkSafe inspectors will be focusing on managing the risks around plant and manual handling and the information, instruction and training being provided to workers.
Labour Hire Licensing Commissioner Steve Dargavel said the Authority’s focus would be checking that providers had COVIDSafe plans, as well as looking at their licence status and conditions for labour hire workers.
“These site inspections are important because compliance with coronavirus restrictions and having COVIDSafe plans means we’re protecting the harvest and regional communities – staying safe means staying open,” he said.
“We want to see compliance with existing laws because it prevents the spread of coronavirus and the exploitation of workers, creates fairness among employers and improves the reputation of the horticulture sector and regional communities as employment destinations.”
Department of Health Compliance and Enforcement Commander Leanne Hughson said the visits would help ensure COVID safety and compliance.
“We want to ensure that COVID risks are being managed and that people are doing the right thing to make sure we stay safe across Victoria throughout this challenging harvest season,” she said. “The Chief Health Officer’s Directions will mean all seasonal workers and the businesses they work in are required to meet additional workplace obligations to help keep themselves and the wider community safe.”
To register for the information session, visit www.eventbrite.com.au/e/keeping-your-farm-safe-during-harvest-drop-in-information-session-tickets-139575196169 or phone the WorkSafe Shepparton office on 5831 8260.
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