Improving farm sector workplace safety will depend on maintaining plenty of government level guidance and support for farmers and rural industries, not a preoccupation with penalties.
According to the boss of one of Queensland's biggest employers, David Foote, at Australian Country Choice, there are concerning signs workplace health and safety regulators are becoming more penalty-driven at the expense of their extension responsibilities.
Mr Foote, a keen advocate of promoting rural safety initiatives, has been a member of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland's board - a key link between workers, employers, industry experts and government - since 2014.
The ACC managing director, also chairs the board's rural industry sector standing committee.
ACC employs about 1400 workers on farms and in meatworks.
It supplyies about 70 per cent of its beef output to domestic buyers, primarily Coles and Woolworths, and the rest to export markets.
"You don't have easy access to safety advice or services in the bush, and the internet is not a reliable tool for many farming business," he said.
Employers in rural areas were more reliant than most on the independent guidance, leadership and feedback received from the safety specialists in organisations like Workcover Queensland.
"There is a concern the authorities are moving their focus away from proactive education and extension to being penalty-driven and concentrating on regulatory enforcement," he said.
"There's a whole different workplace environment in the bush than you'll find at building sites, manufacturing plants or commercial ventures in metropolitan areas."
Rural employers tended to have different levels of understanding because farms, in particular, were different to mainstream workplaces and they were remote from many mainstream employer services.
"I'm concerned the shift in the current climate is devaluing the real need for engagement and extension."
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