The Fair Farms training and certification program moves into a ‘proof of concept’ pilot phase this month. Up to ten farm businesses from around Australia will participate in the pilot to test each of the key elements of the program.
The participating businesses will complete an online practice assessment, participate in training, and then proceed to an independent audit of their employment practices and procedures. After addressing any required corrective actions, these businesses have the opportunity to become Australia’s first certified ‘Fair Farms’.
Growcom is working closely with auditing firm, AUS-QUAL, to help shape the audit and certification process for the Fair Farms program. While scrutiny of employment practices on fruit and vegetable farms may seem new to many growers, direct suppliers to large companies such as McDonalds or Coles have needed to demonstrate compliance with social or ethical standards for some years now. Over the last two years, AUS-QUAL has completed over 1000 social audits with farm businesses.
Terry O’Brien, AUS-QUAL’s General Manager of Corporate Services, has reviewed these audit results to identify matters that commonly trigger corrective actions or findings. The most common include:
- Safety and administration issues (60%)
- Insufficient written policies and procedures (10%)
- Harsh treatment of farm workers (7%)
- Farm workers required to work excessive hours (6%)
- Child labour or poor management of young workers /minors (6%)
Essential administrative matters that auditors check for include:
- Written policies and procedures
- Current certificates of insurance and licenses
- Contracts, for example with labour hire agencies
- Employment records, particularly for induction and training
The key issues of concern around health and safety include:
- Inadequate assessment of health and safety risks by farm managers (16%)
- Poor emergency procedures and equipment such as Evacuation maps, signage, drills or training (22%)
- Nominated fire wardens, fire-fighting equipment or drills (15%)
- Qualified first aiders, first aid kits, or out of date first aid supplies (15%)
- Blocked emergency exits (7%)
- Insufficient ‘tag & test’ of electrical equipment
It is worth conducting a review to check that these matters are well managed in your own business. Many of these issues are legal requirements, with significant penalties for non-compliance. Paying attention to health, safety, training and good record management also contributes to building a positive business culture and high job satisfaction amongst staff.
The Fair Farms Initiative is delivered by Growcom, in collaboration with industry and supply chain stakeholders. It is supported with seed funds from the Fair Work Ombudsman community engagement grants program.