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June (No. 497)


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Wine producers on notice: expect an OHS audit

Occupational health and safety standards within Australia’s wine industry are being scrutinised in a bid to improve the safety of workers and reduce costs for business.

The National Compliance Strategy for Wine Producers is a coordinated six-month campaign involving workplace safety authorities in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand.

South Australian Minister for Industrial Relations, Michael Wright, said the compliance strategy got under way in South Australia in April. He expected an approximate 5% of small-to-medium-sized producers would be audited.

“Safety is paramount in any workplace, and this is a timely opportunity for inspectors to examine South Australia’s wine production industry,” said Wright.

During the audits, inspectors will check that wine producers have identified the hazards at their facilities, assessed the risks and implemented the necessary measures to prevent workers from being injured.

Brian Smedley, business services manager with the South Australian Wine Industry Association, said wine producers should not be overly concerned.

“The approach of inspectors is generally not too full-on, unless of course, there are very serious problems. It’s generally more about educating producers as to compliance with workplace safety,” Smedley said.

“Audits in the industry have been around since 1999 and so it’s part of a continuing process. For those producers who may not have seen an inspector before, or who are not used to the audit process, they need to ask are they complying with the Act, have they made OHS action plans?

“The South Australian Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986, is nearly 20 years old and still there are some wine companies and grapegrowers who have done nothing in terms of addressing or improving safety.”

Smedley said he hoped to see the audit outcomes used in a positive way to ensure industry was made aware of safety issues.

“We would like to see some quick indications of how industry is going, perhaps via a report which discusses areas in which wineries are doing well, and where the industry may need more work. It’s important this process has a reporting system which ensures industry is made aware of issues raised,” Smedley said.

Speaking in late April, Smedley said that audits had been somewhat slow to start, however, he said several wineries had received advice that they would be audited.

Minister Wright said the audits being conducted throughout Australia and New Zealand would focus on the problem areas identified by the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission including working at heights, manual handling and slips, trips and falls.

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