Working Towards Safer Farms
The safety and fair treatment of workers on Australian cotton farms are key priorities for our growers. Thousands of families live and work on Australia's cotton farms and the industry feels a great sense of responsibility towards them.
Australian farm workers are covered by robust government regulation that protects worker rights, does not allow child labour, ensures fair wages are paid and that safe working conditions are provided. And the Australian cotton industry goes further. The myBMP (Best Management Practices) program devotes a module to "Worker Health and Safety" that contains over 30 criteria a grower must meet to achieve certification including recruitment, training, safety, hazard elimination and the fair treatment of workers.
Initiatives taken by the Australian cotton industry to continue improving farm safety include:
• Funding 27 myBMP workplace health and safety workshops in Queensland from 2015 to 2018
• Delivering annual AgSkilled courses in New South Wales since 2017. In the first half of 2019 alone, AgSkilled supported 45 safety courses for the cotton and grain industries across NSW, providing safety training for 299 individuals
• Delivering first aid workshops for growers every year from 2014 to 2019
• Partnering with nine Research and Development Corporations, including CRDC, in the Rural Safety & Health Alliance to improve rural industries’ health and safety record
More Work to Do
Despite these investments in workplace health and safety programs, the risks leading to death, serious injury and illness in agricultural are well known. From 2014 to October 2019, the agricultural sector had one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injury. During this period, 399 people lost their lives on an Australian farm. In the cotton industry, 6 people lost their lives on a cotton farm in Australia from July 2014 to June 2019.
More needs to be done to ensure the industry reduces these statistics.
Leadership in Human Rights
In late 2015 the myBMP program was showcased in a report that mapped human rights issues in supply chains. The report – Human Rights In Supply Chains: Promoting Positive Practice – was a collaboration between the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility and the United Nations (UN) Global Compact Network Australia.
The report brought together insights from a three-stage research project that aimed to understand current practices to address human rights in the supply chains of Australian businesses. The research showcased the positive, pro-active steps taken by the Australian cotton industry to ensure human rights are respected in the industry.