Growers Andrew Plunkett and Jake Anderson improve efficiency by prioritising safety

The Plunketts have also modernised their packing shed, working to minimise the amount of people inside, reducing noise and improving the layout of operations. Simple changes, including well-marked pedestrian crossings and thinking about how people can move around the orchard more safely have also had a major impact on efficiency.
Safety improvements are always scalable and while some growers can afford large-scale changes, other operators are finding small changes are having big payoffs in their workflow.
Owner of J.K Anderson & Sons Orchards, Jake Anderson, said consistent training, and refreshing that training, is a must if you’re going to keep everyone safe.
“You need to treat everyone like they have never used machinery and equipment before and you can’t cut corners – you can never assume a new worker knows what they’re doing until you show them,” Mr Anderson said.
“On a picker’s first day we work on their skills individually because we know it takes at least one full season for someone to understand the basics and feel comfortable with their work. We team up our pickers in the afternoons to help some of our newer staff as the day goes on.”
“We also make sure our experienced workers are given refreshers because even the most experienced pickers might have gaps in their knowledge.”
Mr Anderson also understands the importance of updating equipment. Moving from heavy steel ladders to light aluminium ones, with more stable frames, has improved both the confidence in pickers and confidence in himself that his staff are safer.
J.K Anderson & Sons Orchards introduced a new computer system to improve efficiency in chemical outputs and improved safety for pickers at the same time. The system identifies the type, amount, time and location of chemical usage across the orchard. This helps orchard staff identify recently sprayed sections and direct pickers to safer areas with a low risk of harm from airborne chemical exposure.
Fruit Growers Victoria Chair and owner of McNab Orchards, Mitchell McNab said no matter the size of the farm, any improvements help keep everyone safe.
“To improve safety, you don’t have to be investing in the latest technology or packaging systems – safety doesn’t have to break the bank. Smaller scale changes to the picking and packing processes can have just as much of an impact on operations as buying the most advanced tractors or picking platforms,” Mr McNab said.
Fruit Growers Victoria has partnered with WorkSafe Victoria to highlight that safety and efficiency often go hand-in-hand, and to encourage farms of all sizes to make even small changes to improve safety for everyone on-farm.
“While farmers can be challenged with events outside of their control, like the weather, safety is one area you can plan for,” WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety Narelle Beer said.
“Putting safety planning first will not only keep yourself, your workers and your loved ones safe, but will also help you get through the busy times more efficiently and with less stress.”
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Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd
8-10 Wheeler Street,
Shepparton Vic 3630

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