Following a safety awareness campaign by the Australian Workers Union, the general health of shearers has improved significantly over the last 15 years.
The combined efforts of the AWU, Worksafe and the Australian Shearing Contractors have lead to changes to industry practices, ranging from shearing shed design and equipment preparation to nutrition.
Former shearer turned ergonomist Michael Lawrence from Joint Action, says, “A couple of decades ago, we prided ourselves on not drinking too much water while we were shearing.”
“Now that is just something that the current generation would just laugh at…we understood that if we drank too much we’d probably get uncomfortable.”
While Mr Lawrence believes the improvements made so far have been excellent, he says the emotional health of shearers is still an area of concern.
“I guess it’d be really doing everyone a disservice if I said that there wasn’t a high death rate in shearing…but it’s not through the handpieces hitting them,” he said.
“In mining we’re dealing with the same thing, it’s to do with social and relationship disconnection, long way from home isolation.
“No body quite knows, but there are a whole lot of things there.”
Going forward, Mr Lawrence would like to see more modern equipment used in the industry as well as better education on how to deal with injuries.
“I certainly see people in the shearing industry talking about it,” he said.
“They’re certainly interested – they know full well that they would like better machinery and better equipment but it’s just a matter of how we can get there in ways that can be afforded.”