'Urgent need' to change focus

Rural Safety and Health Alliance kicks off


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Most important: Investing in safety is investing in the farming future. For more information visit www.rsha.com.au Photo: AgriFutures

Most important: Investing in safety is investing in the farming future. For more information visit www.rsha.com.au Photo: AgriFutures

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Rural Safety and Health Alliance starts with a blank slate

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Sometimes you need to go back to square one when tackling something as important as farm safety, particularly when there hasn't been a significant improvement in the statistics.

A new partnership of rural research and development corporations is investing in a fresh approach to improve primary production's health and safety record centred on innovative research and extension.

The partnership, called the Rural Safety and Health Alliance will invest in practical extension solutions informed by industry input on work, health and safety risks.

Key features of the RSHA include setting clear priorities to better target research, development and extension, strengthening industry leadership and developing a 'shark tank' funding model, where applicants work together to pitch projects for funding.

Rural Safety and Health Alliance Chair Patrick Murphy said there was an urgent need to change the current approach to bring about change in the industry's health and safety record.

"Health and safety performance has hardly changed in the past 15 years and the direct and indirect financial impact of agricultural workplace deaths is estimated to be $1.5 billion over this period," Mr Murphy said.

Mr Murphy said the RSHA would generate new levels of collaboration and best target resources to address what 'good' health and safety looks like in theory and in practice.

"From start-ups through to experienced extension providers, we are wanting new, innovative and creative ways to develop practical solutions and eliminate duplication," he said.

"The difference between the RSHA and earlier efforts is the research-focused agenda and its competitive funding model which will generate accountability to ensure RD&E investments deliver a return on value and translate into practical improvements for producers."

While the RSHA has risen out of previous investments made by the RDCs in farm health and safety, AgriFutures Australia's Jennifer Medway said this time the stakeholder organisations began with a blank sheet, and looked at how they could better address farm safety in real terms.

"We looked at the statistics and nothing had changed, so we went back to the drawing board," she said.

"The new project has a refocused agenda, we have more research and development partners and we have better linkages."

Ms Medway said accidents relating to tractors, quad bike and horse remained the leading causes of death and injury in farming, however more work needed to be done as a priority to improve intelligence gathering as understanding and quantifying injuries and "near misses" underpinned future investments and policy recommendations.

"Our information mechanisms do not capture injuries well, we know the statistics around injuries are understated," she said.

"Working with the the Safety Institute, Safe Work and others we have been having conversations about this."

The RSHA is seeking registrations of interest from groups or individuals who want to be kept updated as the alliance progresses.

The Rural Safety and Health Alliance is supported jointly by AgriFutures Australia, Australian Eggs, Australian Pork, Australian Wool Innovation, Cotton Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, Fisheries Research & Development Corporation, Grains Research & Development Corporation and Meat & Livestock Australia.

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