I'll never do that again... when its time to review your policies
We think a new year is the perfect time to reflect on the year that was and how we can learn from it, to not only support our own mental health and wellbeing, but also to encourage safer workplaces for everyone.
Looking back over the past few years, we have all had to adjust to a lot of new experiences. Some good, some bad. We know life on the farm can be stressful and demanding in several ways, you have isolation, natural disasters, extreme temperatures, fluctuating commodity prices, financial instability, supply chain disruptions, physical labour and the long hours. Add in the past few years of COVID hovering around and constant media reports, it’s no surprise depression and anxiety may be impacting those in our rural communities.
When living in a rural community, it’s often hard to seek help when you feel as though you need to hide it. When you’re not comfortable visiting a therapist’s office or seeking medical attention, you’re not comfortable opening about your challenges. If COVID has brought one positive thing into our lives, it was the expansion of telehealth consultations.
“Between 13 March 2020 and 12 January 2022, 91.36 million telehealth services have been delivered to 16.4 million patients, with more than $4.4 billion in benefits paid and 89,180 practitioners have now used telehealth services.” – Australian Digital Health Agency
Mental health is often a taboo topic not to mention the stigma attached, according to Health Direct in Australia, “Rural farming communities are at greater risk of suicide than most other Australians.” This crisis has been labelled as one of the most significant health issues to affect a generation and it is unlikely you will find someone that has not felt its affects.
The American Farm Bureau Federation noted in December 2022 that “nearly half of rural adults and 44% of farmers and farmworkers said they’re more comfortable talking to their doctor about these personal issues compared to a year ago.”
What do they credit this to? Raising awareness around stressors and mental health issues that rural communities and farmers are facing daily. When stress levels increase and mental health is left unchecked, it can affect your physical health too. It negatively impacts on your decision-making process, often leading to increased risk of an injury or accident on farm. Let’s make our mental as well as our physical health a priority in 2022!
We often learn from another person’s life experiences, from others sharing their stories so why shouldn’t we take the opportunity for reflection and awareness after such challenging times.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- How do I feel right now?
This works best when you schedule some time, it could be as little as 5 minutes. Are you stressed, are you anxious or are you feeling down? If you start to notice a pattern, start prioritizing your mental health.
- How have you been sleeping?
Have you noticed any changes to your sleeping pattern? Are you struggling to get to sleep, having restless sleep or waking too early?
Do you find yourself frequently snapping, suffering mood swings, difficulty focusing on a task or relying on food as a coping mechanism?
Sometimes it can be helpful to change your perspective by focusing on your achievements, it can also help you identify what you could do differently for the year ahead:
- What are some highlights from the past year?
- When have you succeeded in the past?
- What was the most important lesson that you have learnt over the past 12 months?
- What new skills have you learnt?
- What do I need to set me up for success?
- Start thinking how else you could approach a situation, when you start to have intrusive negative thoughts.
- Support others
We know farmers are good at helping others, but terrible when it comes to seeking help for themselves. It’s up to us as a community to check on our friends, your family, even the neighbours!
With this newfound self-awareness, you can act, so you don’t make the same mistakes as last year. Have you ever found yourself saying “I’ll never do that again” yet months, weeks maybe even days later you find yourself doing the exact same thing?
What does all of this self-reflection and evaluation have to do with farm safety? The start of a new year is your chance to review and develop your processes and procedures, to use this knowledge to improve in 2022.
Policies and Procedures are important not only for farm safety and compliance, but they support your agribusiness so it can run as effectively and efficiently as possible, supporting management and workers in their day-to-day tasks.
You can start by reviewing your policies and procedures.
- Are they still serving their purpose, or can they be combined with another document?
- Could any changes be made to improve the effectiveness of the safety document?
- Do any points need to be clarified and language modified?
- Were there any issues in the past with understanding, following, or applying the policy or procedure?
- Perhaps you have identified a new policy or procedure your farm could benefit from?
Give your workers a chance to put forward safety suggestions and develop alternatives. Learn more about Worker Consultation and different methods.
Once you have implemented these changes to your documents, don’t forget to make them accessible to your workers and schedule any required training.
This review process is important as industry standards, organisational needs and legal requirements can change over time. You shouldn’t wait until an incident occurs before you review your policies and procedures as old and outdated documents can put your farm at risk.
Disclaimer: Content on this website may be of relevance to users outside of Australia, but content links and examples are specific to Australia. Please check with your local authority for your country and industry requirements.
Originally published 31 January, 2022.