THE winner of this year’s SA AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Alex Thomas is spreading the message about the importance of safety in primary industries through her #PlantASeedForSafety campaign.
Aiming at get people talking about practical work, health and safety, the social media campaign features a mix of personal narrative, humour and people’s stories.
As well as the social media campaign, Ms Thomas is also using the $10,000 bursary she received through the award to design free downloadable work, healthy and safety tools for primary industries.
The driver behind Ms Thomas’ passion for work health and safety is personal family experience.
She grew up at Parnaroo Station near Yunta and through his work her father Chris contracted the livestock-borne infection Q fever from goats.
Seeing the effect the disease and other secondary illnesses had on her father drove Ms Thomas to promote safety in primary industries, and particularly in small family businesses. Ms Thomas plays an active role in caring for her father.
Ms Thomas believes the last thing farmers is need is more red tape or extra paperwork when it comes to health and safety.
“Red tape is a blunt instrument for changing the culture of an industry,” she said.
“Red tape – or safety paperwork – distracts people from what they intuitively know it means ‘to be safe’. Things such as guards around augers, fences around homesteads, communication protocols for remote work, tool lanyards when working at height or covers over wells.
“Safety paperwork does not pose a physical barrier between a person and dangerous situation. It is merely a last line of defence where nothing else can be physically done to prevent someone from getting hurt.
“If anyone ever asks a farmer ‘where their safety paperwork is’, I would implore them to show that person what practical improvements they’ve made to the workplace to prevent someone from getting hurt.
“A physical safeguard will always trump a piece of paper.”
Ms Thomas believes women can play a key role in helping improve safety outcomes.
“Rural women are the backbone of primary industries,” she said.
“They are risk averse, they are connected to rural communities and they are innate carers.”
“As experts in their own businesses, and in their male counterparts, they are in the perfect position to influence change.”
Ms Thomas believes one of the best ways farmers could improve their safety is by asking their wife what scares her about their work on the farm.
“I’ve adopted the #SaveALifeListenToYourWife hashtag to support the #PlantASeedForSafety campaign,” she said.
Ms Thomas believes a good way to spread the message about farm safety is to shed light on the positive things rural people are already doing.
“People who work in primary industries are brilliant problem solvers,” she said.
“We need to focus spreading the word on what’s being done well, rather than disempowering people with negative safety information.”
Ms Thomas said finding and sharing practical solutions and good news stories with neighbours, industry associations, grower groups, the local football club, offered real value.
“People will generally always follow in the footsteps of those they admire, or at least have something in common with,” she said.
“Farmers are always looking to their peers for better ways of doing things. They listen to what their neighbour’s have done differently this year or about the new machinery Max purchased at the recent field day.”
“It’s about starting conversations about what people are doing well, and amplifying that conversation.”