Image: Chris Thomas, a former pastoralist, inspired his daughter Alex to improve the safety of farming families. Image supplied.
Adelaide-based Safety Consultant Alex Thomas has been awarded the 2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, earning a bursary of $10,000 to launch her ‘Plant a Seed for Safety’ social media campaign.
Having spent her formative years on Parnaroo Station near Yunta, Ms Thomas has first hand experience of the difficulties faced by farming families and the role that workplace health and safety plays in farm sustainability.
Thirty years ago, her father contracted Q-Fever from goats, which – combined with drought conditions and a marriage breakdown – resulted in the family property being sold. The situation inspired Ms Thomas to pursue a career in workplace health and safety with a goal of helping other families to avoid a similar fate.
‘The fatality rate for a work-related injury in agriculture is eight times higher than the national average and because women are key influences in their businesses, communities and family, they have a capacity to push change,’ she said.
She stresses that practical on-farm change – rather than being bogged down in paperwork – is key in implementing workplace health and safety performance.
‘It’s already been proven in other industries that safety paperwork doesn’t necessarily save lives. In order to seriously reduce the number of work-related fatalities in agriculture – we need to focus on fixing what it is that’s actually killing people’.
According to Ms Thomas, the key to cultural change is the role of women in driving improvement in on-farm practices.
‘They’re inherently more risk averse, they’re connected with the community, and they’re fantastic communicators. And above all – they care – and it’s in harnessing this care factor, that becomes their capacity to lead change.
‘As the experts and key influencers for their husbands, their businesses and their community, I believe rural women are the catalyst for change.’
Planting a Seed for Safety
The $10,000 bursary will be used by Ms Thomas to implement a social media campaign to increase awareness and change amongst family farmers, including free, downloadable resources.
‘Over the next twelve months, I’m going to launch the #PlantASeedForSafety social media campaign – which seeks to engage and empower rural women for change by profiling them and their stories of the changes they’ve instigated that have the potential to save a life.
‘I’m also going to develop free tools for the industry to reduce the costs associated with engaging consultants, and provide meaningful direction in how to prevent a fatality’ she said.
Alex Thomas has been featured as an expert on farm safety in several articles included in The Lucas Group e-newsletters – Taking the Bull by the Horns: Agriculture Finally Faces up to WH&S Obligations and Satellite Technology Making Station Life Safer
Sources: Stock Journal