VICTORIAN meat processor Midfield Meat International is funding a $100,000 Q Fever awareness campaign through the Victorian Farmers Federation’s Livestock Group as part of an undertaking with WorkSafe Victoria.
The VFF said the $100,000 campaign is fully supported by Midfield and will be launched next year.
It will include industry workshops, preparedness toolkits and targeted advertising to promote the dangers of Q fever and the importance of vaccination.
Q fever is a flu-like disease carried by cattle, sheep and goats, as well as feral animals such as bandicoots and rodents. The disease can be transmitted to humans and poses the greatest risk to people working with livestock, such as farmers, abattoir workers, veterinarians and animal handlers.
In 2014, according to Worksafe Victoria, four Midfield employees contracted the infectious disease, leading to charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These included that the Warrnambool-based company failed to provide and maintain safe systems of work without risk to health.
Worksafe said Midfield has subsequently renewed and improved its systems, and requires all on-site labour hire employees and contractors to be vaccinated for Q Fever before starting work. If Midfield completes its obligations under the terms of a court-enforceable undertaking with Worksafe in the next 18 months, including the $100,000 contribution to the VFF campaign, the Worksafe charges will be withdrawn.
The company’s contribution will include $40,000 for an awareness toolkit and communication material, $40,000 for on-ground training at regional field days and VFF-hosted farmer events and $20,000 for a Victoria-wide media advertising program.
The company has also undertaken to contribute $5000 to the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria to create a Q Fever awareness component to a mobile-accessible app linked to the LRTAV website. A further $3000 contribution will go towards an LRTAV Q Fever information session.
Midfield has also agreed to contribute up to $5000 toward translating documents relevant to Q Fever awareness for its foreign language workers.
Supply chain co-operation
VFF Livestock president Leonard Vallance said the campaign is a prime example of the supply chain working together for an outcome that benefits the whole industry.
“Our aim is to raise awareness about the impacts on human health and highlighting the importance of vaccination against the disease.
“We need to ensure that producers and people in rural areas who handle livestock have the knowledge and the skills to manage Q-fever,” he said.
“It’s vital for people handling livestock to understand the potential impact of Q fever on their health.”
“Every year, about 600 cases of Q fever are reported across Australia, so this is a massive issue for industry,” Mr Vallance said.
“The campaign will spread right across next year to ensure the whole supply chain has an opportunity to improve their knowledge of Q fever and how they could be affected if they aren’t vaccinated.”
More information about Q-Fever, including risks and symptoms, is available on the VFF website.
Midfield Group general manager Dean McKenna said the company took its responsibilities to its workers extremely seriously and looked forward to maintaining its impeccable record. He said the awareness program would benefit participants industry-wide.
A WorkSafe spokesman said an enforceable is accepted as an alternative to prosecution if WorkSafe believed it would deliver significant health and safety benefits that outweigh the deterrent effect that flowed from a conviction and fine.
WorkSafe is satisfied the undertakings proposed by Midfield Meat International will deliver tangible and ongoing health and safety benefits to its employees, the abattoir sector and to the broader community, he said.