In Australia, all workers including casual, part-time, full-time, contract and even students, are protected by the safety law --- Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act. Managers, supervisors or team coordinators are responsible for making sure that there is a safe environment to work in. When it comes to production nurseries in the plant nursery industry, manual handling task is one of the tasks that injure many people, which cause millions of dollars lost.
This article provide practical guidance and solutions for workplace health and safety issues in production nurseries so that you can implement them in your workplace.
Plant Nursery Industry
The Australian plant nursery industry has a wide base covering production, wholesale, landscape, retail, plant hire and allied trades. Plant production is greatest in the more populous states of New South Wales and Victoria, with a combined total of more than 60% of the national output.
Nurseries are very labour-intensive businesses. The plants must be cared for and examined each day. Especially during the Spring and Autumn seasons, when most of the plants are growing at a staggering rate, so the work load of every grower becomes overwhelming. Estimates suggest that 70% of nursery expense is in manpower needed to keep it running optimally.
Safety issues in Production Nurseries
According to a government document (developed by WorkSafe), slips, trips/falls, muscular stress while lifting and handling are the main ways that workers get hurt in the Nursery & Garden Industry. Ron Widman, the WHS Co-ordinator of NGINA, stated that 49% of all injuries in the industry are caused by manual handling tasks. Lifting and carrying bags and plants are one of the most common causes of injury in the Nursery & Garden industry.
The document suggests that any task involving high force, bad/static postures and repetitive movements has the potential to cause injury and best practices must be acknowledged. For example, lifting pots or bags can cause back damage over time through gradual wear and tear on your body while lifting some heavy objects could cause immediate injury. Therefore, these tasks need to be identified and processes put in place to reduce the likelihood of injury (Watch “Can you Handle it” video from NGIQ).
Nursery and Horticultural Equipment
It is reassuring to know that staff return home to their families healthy and safe each night. No one wants the job of informing family their loved ones have been seriously or fatally injured at work. Therefore, it is imperative that growers ensure safer working practices and exercise efficiency, by utilizing available nursery/horticultural equipment such as nursery benching, shade houses, pot handlers, trailers, bagging machines or other nursery and horticultural equipment where possible to eliminate risk.
Government Pledge to Production Nurseries
Workcover(NSW) reports that there have been 391 back injury claims since 2008 in the plant nursery industry alone. To encourage plant growers to minimize risks and hazards, WorkCover have started a $500 small business rebate programme which allows small businesses (in NSW) to claim back $500 dollars against purchases of nursery and horticultural machinery in NSW.
For more information, tips and techniques to improve Workplace safety and Health(WHS), check out the following resource:
Learning how to increase work efficiency and ensure the continued safety of your staff and implementing these guidlines and solutions are very crucial. Please email or share this article in your social network so more people can get benefit from it.