Farmers are adapting well to a recent overhaul of WA’s workplace safety laws despite many feeling “frustrated and overwhelmed” by the magnitude of the task. That’s according to Perth-based work health and safety expert Danielle McNamee, who is helping farmers get compliant with the new Work Health and Safety Act that came into effect on March 31. Under the revised act — the first update to WA’s workplace safety laws in 38 years — employers could face 20 years behind bars and $10 million in fines if found responsible for a workplace death. As managing director of resource and work health and safety business ProcessWorx, which specialises in agriculture, Ms McNamee has received plenty of feedback from small family farms struggling to adjust to the changes. “Big companies have HR departments and safety departments, but it’s really hard if you’ve just got a handful of people that you’re working with,” she told Countryman. “I’ve had a huge amount of feedback... and I think farmers feel a little bit frustrated and concerned with all the changes.” Ms McNamee — who has more than 20 years’ experience in people management, industrial relations and workplace safety across Australia, the UK and USA — said farmers she had worked with were adapting well but often needed guidance. “We’ve got hundreds of clients that are farmers, and I’ve not come across anyone that’s deliberately reckless around safety,” she said. “A lot of them are doing lots of really good, safe things, but they just don’t ever document it, capture it and share it formally with their staff. “The challenge is, how do you be compliant with these laws when you’ve got less than 10 people in your team? It can be overwhelming.” Ms McNamee said ProcessWorx had “never been busier” and the majority of clients were farmers “wanting to do the right thing and get compliant”. She said her goal was to make navigating the new laws “more accessible and practical for farmers”. “I’m so excited because I feel we’re starting to have a real impact,” she said. “Farmers are trying to do so many things already, and then if you suddenly say ‘go and do all of this’, it’s like ‘where do I start?’ Sometimes they need the support.” Ms McNamee said Australia was probably the highest regulated country in the world for HR and safety. In a presentation at the McIntosh & Son Mingenew Midwest Expo on August 12, she shared her top tips for how farmers could adapt to the new laws. Of key importance was the need to document safety processes on farm and train staff in those processes to ensure new duty of care requirements were met. “Most businesses that I’ve worked with, when I started working with them, were not meeting their duty of care,” Ms McNamee said. “It’s not that they’re not safe or they don’t care, it’s just that they haven’t documented anything and formally shown staff how to do things safely. “We need to make sure that what we put in place is actually implemented to prevent terrible incidents, and we get the documentation to support that if something goes wrong.” Among other changes to the laws, Ms McNamee said incident notification requirements were now stricter, with many “semi-serious” injuries and near misses required to be reported to WorkSafe. She urged all farmers to develop a safety management system and, for those determined to go it alone, to consult with Safe Farms WA. “My message today is do something about safety, whether it be engaging the services of a professional, or seeking out the support around training that’s available to you — like the Rural Edge Farm Safety Training program,” Ms McNamee said. Farm safety has increasingly come under the spotlight in recent years, with WorkSafe launching a landmark enquiry in June into the “unacceptable” number of fatalities in the State’s agricultural sector. WorkSafe commissioner Darren Kavanagh launched the probe after a 24-year-old farmer in WA’s Wheatbelt became the 12th person to die while working in the sector in as many months.