The Bligh Government has introduced a new program to keep cane harvesters, haulers and cane rail operators safe during this year’s sugar cane crushing season.

Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick today met with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) safety inspectors to be briefed on the program while in the far north for the Bligh Government’s Community Cabinet meeting.

The program was devised after a worker was tragically killed in Tully in October 2008 in a collision between a cane haulage vehicle and a cane train.

“The Bligh Government is committed to ensuring the health and safety of all Queensland workers, whether they work in a factory, an office or in the far north’s cane fields,” Mr Dick said.

“We want all Queenslanders working in the sugar industry to come home to their loved ones uninjured at the end of each shift.

“We are still finalising the assessment of the program, but we believe 2009 was one of the safest harvesting seasons in far North Queensland on record, with no major incidents or major derailments,” he said.

Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt said the good results continued the trend of a decline in the rate of injuries.

“In 2007–08, there were 21 accepted workers’ compensation claims in the sugar cane industry, a decrease of 54 per cent from the 46 claims in 2006–07,” Mr Pitt said.

“The sugar industry has fewer workplace injuries than other primary industries because it is highly mechanised but injuries tend to be more severe because of the use of heavy plant and equipment.”

Mr Pitt said that WHSQ, in cooperation with the far north’s sugar industry, had hosted induction days for harvesting contractors and cane rail operators at major regional sugar mills.

“Teams from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland – including experts in rural, electrical and industrial safety and health issues – attended induction days at Tully, South Johnstone, Babinda and Mossman mills,” he said.

The topics included risk management, fatigue management, communications systems and electrical risks.

Dr Ki Douglas, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Workplace Health and Safety Queensland’s Health Strategy Branch, also spoke to industry workers about fatigue management.

The Queensland Police Service attended the presentation at Tully mill and provided information on traffic safety as well as risks from drugs and alcohol.

“Currently it is planned that the program be repeated for the 2010 year and extended to cover mills in the Ingham and Burdekin districts,” Mr Dick said.

“The induction days had been very well attended and WHSQ was looking at participating in them on an ongoing basis to emphasise health and safety in the workplace.”