NT WorkSafe has made this industry a priority because of the high numbers and rates of injury, and the hazardous nature of the work. It is also a diverse industry with different kinds of work including managers, mustering, cattle handling, administration and kitchen staff.
The presentation features discussion from two station managers, an insurance broker and NT WorkSafe about work health and safety improvements that they have implemented, to raise the profile of work health and safety on the station, and to engage their staff on safe work practices.
Who is this presentation for?
This presentation is for people with an interest in the hazards and risks in the Australian cattle industry, and how these are managed.
About the presenter
NT WorkSafe is the organisation responsible for work health and safety in the Northern Territory. It encourages and assists compliance through the delivery of information, education and advice, and drives behaviour change by raising the profile of work health and safety.
NT WorkSafe – WorkSafe in the Cattle Industry
Narrator: The Cattle Industry has a significant economic impact throughout the Northern Territory.
The industry was one of the first established industries in the Territory, and is made up of a mix of long established family stations through to large corporate organisations that operate on several Pastoral leases at a time.
Unlike any other industry, the Cattle Industry has a footprint covering around 45% of the Territory’s total land area.
It is an industry providing significant employment opportunities for regional and remote areas of the NT.
Nationally, agriculture as a broad industry group has been identified as a priority industry due to the high numbers and rates of injury and the hazardous nature of the work.
NT WorkSafe has commenced a campaign to assist station owners to reduce the frequency of injuries in the industry.
From the stations visited so far, the industry has demonstrated awareness and commitment to work health and safety.
This snapshot provides an overview of two station managers on the hazards facing the industry in the Territory and their interaction with NT WorkSafe.
Baden Crittle: I’m Baden Crittle, Tipperary Station Manager at Tipperary. I’ve been with AA Company, and been with them for, been here for six months and been with AA for five years.
Well I started out, as anyone, as a station hand on a bigger property. I’ve been through a few different areas of the industry as I said – I’ve been in to the tanning hides and that sort of thing, that sort of area, building machinery for the agricultural industry, and moving through on to the head stockman role, overseer and station manager.
The opportunity was given to me as a station manager in central Queensland on a smaller property to move to the bigger property and really go forward in my career and take on a bigger role.
AA has at least 12 properties in the Northern Territory from Brunette on the Barkly right up to the Darwin region here and obviously the abattoir just out of Darwin.
We are vertically integrated from the cattle side of our supply into the beef industry. We obviously have a lot of station managers so we collectively between us there would be hundreds of years of experience between all the station managers, the general managers that have been in the business and right up to the CEO.
Turn off here, so live export was the probably one of the main ones last year. This year we’re just turning off weaners to Brunette so this year we’ll turn off about 8 – 10 thousand weaners down to Brunette where they'll background on the lakes of Brunette.
So it is very vital that our staff are trained and manage them cattle in a safe manner.
I think going into the company side of things, you focus on safety. We want to create a safety culture and that’s from the ground up. So our staff telling us what they think – you TRANSCRIPT
know – what is there, what is the risk, what is the hazards, and they have the opportunity to voice that to their manager, or their next in line manager and that comes through to the Station Manager on to the GM’s and then on to the Board. The Board obviously takes it very seriously and they are implementing things for us, the Station Managers and we communicate down; but we also from a site perspective we want the communication to come up from the guys on the ground, the station hands to tell us.
Well right at the beginning, doesn’t matter what AACo property you are on, you do an Onboarding Program the moment they sign up so that’ll start a week before they actually arrive at the Station. We spend three or four days with them, we’ll go right through all the safe working procedures and everything that we have.
We’ll actually take them to the yards and we’ll work a small mob of cattle. We’ll spend a day on the horses, we’ll shoe the horses and we’ll do the quad bike assessments and the motorbike assessments and we’ll have all of that ticked off and we’ll have them assessed in the first week; and then we’ll work through the training and what we need to go forward with.
We’ll go through that first initial assessment, we’ll set a review date on that. That’s done by myself or the Operations Manager.
I’ve made it very apparent point that we will talk about safety and we will have tool box talks weekly. So that’s the head stockman to his staff and that’s on an issue that I’ve risen or something that I‘ve seen as the manager that I want dealt with. To something that one of the station staff have actually bought to me and said look I need this communicated up.
Tool box talks go up to a safety meeting that we will generally have once a month and then we have a bigger, broader, with 27 staff, we have a full safety meeting every three months.
I think outside the box. I’m only young and I look for things.
Since my management here I’ve identified a few areas that I need to work on.
This year I’m offering a safety incentive to the staff. So if they come to me with near misses, any incidents, anything that they want to bring forward, there is an initiative there for them.
We understand the policies and procedures coming from NT WorkSafe and we are identifying the issues and seeking ways to limit them.
Mainly, and this is what we have identified with AACo, is the cattle, the horses, and the motorbikes and the mustering as our main areas. But we certainly don’t forget about our mechanics, the cook, the gardener, they’re all involved, the maintenance manager, they’re all involved in what we do here for safety.
We have the low stress stock handling that all the station staff here have been through and that is something that everyone is aware of and does very well.
When you’re talking about the weaners, we handle the weaners with low stress and we keep them heffers and they come back next year as joiner heffers, so they’ve been handled properly and they come back the next year as a wet cow because they’ve been through the yards properly – low stress handling. The staff know how to handle them properly because we put them through the low stress handling schools but does it actually stop incidences when you’re working with a live animal. It would be very hard to say that just that alone or just a set of standards alone, would work in every case. TRANSCRIPT
We have a cattle handling procedure, we go through it with them, how to shut the gates properly, how to yard up properly and all that. That is something we do and we tick off, and all our staff are aware of the risks and hazards involved around the cattle and around the cattle yards.
Horse trainer (off camera): Back, back, back, so this is where, you know this is where we can go back to those basics.
Baden Crittle: We did need to get the training and the horsemanship skills to a better level here at Tipperary. We felt that we had the expertise to do it instead of getting someone external and paying for that. We felt we had the expertise and we’d share that with our staff. So we went from first round to young green riders, from that they’ve been, all the staff have gone from a level to the next level.
I’ve initiated this year that we’ve bought a new quad bike and it’s speed limited 35 kilometres an hour. They do have roll over protection systems on them. I’ve made a conscious decision that myself, the operations manager, and the head stockmen are the only ones allowed to muster on quad bikes. The other staff are allowed to fence on them.
AACo policy is that all riders of quad bikes and two wheelers have to have a helmet on. They are competency assessed and then re assessed every six months.
To get their attitude right on a quad bike is what I’m after, but part of it is slowing the bikes down and the training; and we haven’t had a quad bike incident this year.
Mustering out in a lot of the thick scrub country and in the remote area, I’ve implemented GPS units that they actually use as two ways and GPS if the get lost. If something happens, if they fall off a horse, they press a button on the GPS and we know their exact location.
Definitely retention is one of our biggest things we’re identifying and we’re working with at AACo. Obviously we keep someone here who understands the property, he understands our policies, the motorbikes, the horses, all that’s at a level that we want them to be at.
To keep them here we are looking at offering incentives and getting that retention rate because the cattle industry and in general in the Ag industry is an industry that can only keep people for one year, two years.
I have a budget and I have to report to General Managers on what my budget is and what I put my money in to. But looking at the safety side of things, there’s things that you don’t compromise. You measure what’s going to save me in lost time, staff incidents, all that sort of stuff; but when you look outside the box at a few things well you weigh up your options and most of the time they’ll tell you you’re better off doing it no matter what the cost is.
NT WorkSafe came out a month ago. I found it very interactive, very positive. So it wasn’t about what we were doing wrong, it was about just identifying things, looking at areas that we can work on.
The positive for me was that it was just an open discussion.
Some of the issues that were raised, just minor ones that we just off the cuff conversation, I’ve gone and addressed them; and I think it’s that outsider’s perspective, the second set of eyes that just show you "Look this is something that you could work with."
The regulations and that, do I fully understand all of them? We have people that do that for me, as a manager for AACo, I have someone that does that for me, but on the ground, the helping and communication from NT Worksafe is what we need. TRANSCRIPT
Bruce McKinley: While we may not always be able to get out there to assist the guys on the ground, have a look and that at their location.
We are still contactable by phone, and obviously we’ve got email, website as well. A lot of information on the website that can assist stations and that.
But by all means they can give NT WorkSafe a call and ask to speak to an Inspector and we’ll provide whatever we can to assist business in better understanding work health and safety.
Cameron Kruckow: My name is Cameron Kruckow I am the Manager at Manbuloo Station, and I’ve been with CPC for about 13 years.
Growing my roles through the ranks starting as a first year jackaroo through to head stockman and then becoming an overseer, now Station Manager here at Manbulloo.
Previously to that, five years before, I ran the stock camp; I was the head stockman for two and a half years.
I came across here when I was 17, running away from home and wanting to get in to the industry. It’s all I know, all I want to ever do!
Consolidated Pastoral Company has seventeen places across Australia through the Territory, the Kimberley region in WA and through Central Queensland and north Queensland.
Its operations are cattle go to export to Indonesia from Wyndham and Darwin and then domestic markets through Queensland.
Manbulloo’s part in CPC; historically with CPC it’s just been a breeding facility but in the last couple of years we’re starting to transition so it’s a value adding place.
Cattle coming here to grow value, add kilograms and then to move them out over the wet season when there’s a shortage of cattle to go to market.
On Manbulloo we have 11 to 13 staff throughout the year. Starting with myself as the manager, below me we have the head stockman and a leading hand, couple of second years and a couple of first years to keep fresh blood coming through all the time.
Other staff we have is the boreman, a cook, he provides meals, he keeps everyone fed, keeps everyone towing the line in the kitchen, keep them on side.
My wife she’s the administration person as well she also takes on a wider role in the company as a training coordinator.
Our youngest people, our new recruits each year, they seem to be the ones that are getting hurt the most. It’s wider across the whole industry.
I think you know, it’s a little bit to do with ego and straight out of school, getting away from your parents, and getting full of confidence. Showing off in front of your mates. So basically that’s why we’ve got to train our people. We’ve got to get them going and get them thinking right.
Get a culture developed so they’re thinking about what they’re doing. They’re not just racing in to things and getting themselves hurt.
At the end of the day that’s where safety really comes in to its own. It can be very tough to handle. You know I was young like that once myself. I know exactly what I was like. TRANSCRIPT
Basically, I think you’ve just got to work through it. Your first couple of weeks are your hardest. You’ve just got to work through it and really get them thinking. All the training we’re doing, constant reminders, tool box talks each month and having meetings. Just making them aware that we might have been lucky and not had any incidents but just making them aware that the incidents that are happening.
When our employees first start with the company we run them through an induction process. It takes place out at the Charles Darwin University Katherine Campus and some of it on Manbulloo itself here.
At the Rural College they do their First Aid Certificate, Chemical certificates some maintenance training, they have qualified mechanics so you know they are the experts in the field so they provide us with that service.
Then the horsemanship side of it, this year we, we had four groups range from beginners to the more experienced riders throughout them and they came out here to Manbulloo and we basically just stepped them through some basic horse riding. We ask them to do a self-assessment of their riding, then we had a couple of horses around that are fairly reliable horses; we know they’re quiet – nothing’s going to go wrong with them.
Got them catching them, riding them and safely handling them, basically getting them to take their hips away so that the horse is not kicking and just working with the animal.
And then they do about three days of that, mind you they’re not totally right to go for the job but they’ve got a start and they know how to keep themselves safe so yeah they can improve from there.
And with the low stress stock handling, they go right down to basics stuff: opening and shutting gates, moving cattle, making sure cattle have water, moving cattle around the yard safely so everything can be as safe as possible.
We’re trying to basically develop a culture here of just having an understanding and an awareness for safety.
But because basically we all live here together, you know, it’s our home as well as our workplace; I think we’re just trying to develop an awareness, an understanding and start to take responsibility of where we are when it comes to safety.
It’s a joint effort for all of us, not just me barking down the shots to my staff.
Our risks would be cattle, horses and motorbikes.
After the induction training program with horses, myself and my Head Stockman we assess our own staff here on Manbulloo again. Just watch them ride and allocate horses to their level, and then just step through the training like that.
That’s ongoing, the horsemanship training all year. It’s a constant improvement, like I’ve still got improvement, we all do. So.
With motorbikes, we carry out, we do some training with Charles Darwin with their motorbike experts. Then basically they come out here and I try and allocate only one or two people to ride the motorbike. And then we step them through and make sure they’re all right. They got, you know, they know how to ride safely.
Motorbikes are a big risk because you can be out in the paddock riding around on a mob of cattle and there’s a log laying in long grass, and that’s all it takes. You might only be idling TRANSCRIPT
along and you can fall off and injure yourself, so just trying to get awareness into them and just understand that there could be an issue and we’re trying to avoid it.
I believe low stress stock handling definitely takes away a lot of the risk. It’ll never totally take it away because we’re dealing with animals at the end of the day. They can be unpredictable.
I think it’s a huge advantage, our stock only come in to the yards, some twice a year, some only once a year, and a small percentage only every couple of years. So using low stress techniques, as long as we stick to it all the time, each year the temperament in the cattle just improve. They’re used to being handled in a good way. You know, they become easy to put through the yard. They become a pleasure to put through the yard. Like I remember when I first started in the Northern Territory chasing cattle, you used to see, you’d be in the stock yards and the gate would fly back open, cattle running back over the top of you.
I’ve heard of incidents in the last five, six years, but I haven’t actually seen a cow run back and smash a gate in the last five years.
We’ve been using quad bikes for as long as I can remember there’s been quads around, but at current stage, because they’ve been identified as such a danger I think they’ll become phased out. The side by side ATV we’ve got, it’ll probably, that’ll take over and replace the quad bikes and be an alternative use and seem to be a bit safer, seat belts, and have a roof on it for roll bar protection. So I think I definitely feel that’s the way things will go.
All the staff are run through Chemical training through CDU, they do their chem cert or the other equivalents. You know ‘cause chemicals are a part of it. But yes we’ve got a process where everyone goes through that training; and when they come on to Station and they have to undertake some chemical handling then we’ve records there we have to keep. You know they’re recording what they’re doing, where they’re doing it, and what they’re doing it for.
In our chemical shed we have the MSDS sheets on hand for all our chemicals that we use. They’re provided there for the staff, if an incident happens they know how to treat it, how to use it, what PPE they need to use for it, and we also have it on hand in the office so there’s a second copy available.
Worksafe NT were out earlier this year, they basically just did a, had a visit and just went and had a look at things, what we’re doing to try and mitigate our risk. It was fully daunting expecting them to come, because from what you know in the industry and heard of other places and in the past, yeah they’re coming to kick your bum really. That’s what the general fear was.
But when they turned up they were really good, we just stepped through the paces. First we just did a bit of a basic induction with them and then talked about our policies and procedures and then walked around and just had a look at things. It was fairly smooth. I think it was good.
Mainly peace of mind and knowing maybe they’re not so bad. You know, they’re there, probably just trying to help and do their job rather than bully us in to things.
Yeah definitely having WorkSafe coming on board this year in the role of being there as an advisor and being there to help us rather than, hammer us, definitely, like we’ve got all the policies and procedures in place and them coming on board and supporting what we’re doing. TRANSCRIPT
It gives you a lot of confidence in knowing that what you’re doing is right and your people. You know, people are the key at the end of the day. We do make money out of cattle but you can’t do none of that without your people; so at the end of the day if they’re able to come home safe, and our policies are helping that happen then I definitely think it’s better rather than worse. You know, definitely moving forward.
Bruce McKinley: I don’t believe it’s got to be an expensive task. I believe that some of the systems that can be implemented on site are rather simple and can be maintained with minimum of fuss; and I think by doing so you’re going to reduce the number of incident rates on your farm, or your Station, and at an industry wide level if those incident rates begin to fall over a period of time that can only be good for the industry. Both in a productivity sense as well as their bottom line.
Stewart E Cox: I’ve been involved in insurance in underwriting and broking for the last 40 odd years; and of those spent many years offering services to the Cattleman’s Association of the Northern Territory.
When you do occ. health and safety there’s not immediate returns. It’s a long-term plan program. You need to implement it and then reap the rewards as you go forward. It’s not instantaneously, because whilst you might have had five years of bad claims and implement the occ. health and safety service program to get a better work safe situation.
The problem is that you’ve still got five years of really bad record. So you’ve got to get rid of that, so you’ve got to have one year good, one year maybe a bit better or not as bad, and then the insurance company can work with you to see, yes, you’re on the right track.
Then the benefits of the savings will come. If anybody’s looking for the quick fix it’s not going to work that way. It’s going to be a long-term situation.
Bruce McKinley: Obviously given that the Northern Territory does have a vast land mass, and some of these stations are quite remote, it’s not just restricted to us coming out there and visiting them. While we intend to try and do that as part of the campaign, if they require any advice or anything in relation to work health and safety, then obviously we have the ability to, through our website, telephone and everything else, the hotline, to give us a call and say hi and let us know what their concerns are or whether they require any further information, and we can provide them with whatever we can.
Just because they make contact with us doesn’t mean they’ve caught our attention or anything like that. We encourage people, if they want to find out more about work health and safety, then by all means contact us. It doesn’t mean you’re going to have an inspector on your door the next day or anything like that but we’ll do whatever we can to try and help them with their concern or provide them with what information they require.
Baden Crittle: I think there needs to be more of that. I would welcome them back, and I would walk them through anything and say look, where can you help me here. Instead of saying what am I doing wrong, where can you help me? And then you know!
Authorised by the Northern Territory Government, Darwin
[End of Transcript]