Too much smoke

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

It’s not uncommon during vintage to hear grumbles from all the links in the chain, from the farmgate to the crusher. Mostly those ‘spot-fires’ can be made safe with some sensible communication and sharing of risk along the chain. But this year, it’s different. There’s too much smoke.

A survey of harvest operators and transport operators will reveal that many have been working way beyond what is reasonable and lawful. Every one of these, as well as those in wineries operating crushers, are operating heavy, dangerous machinery on properties, roads and at wineries. Levels of tiredness in many cases are high-risk. The ‘damage’ may not be serious; the odd strainer post knocked over in the dark, the odd injury to a worker who slips and falls or gets in the way of machinery, the odd truck that rolls over and the list goes on but collectively, for the region, the cost is high, too high.

In recent years there has been great emphasis on the ‘Chain of Responsibility’ with growers, harvesters, transport operators and wineries all involved in understanding their roles. There must be a better way.

As foreshadowed a few weeks ago, Riverland Wine will begin investigating how all members of the chain can amend customs and practices to work towards best practice. In a region with as many stakeholders as the Riverland has and with growers and winemakers sitting around the same table, it will be interesting to see what concrete actions follow from these discussions. With vintage 2019 winding down over the next month, we have a nine-month gestation period to illustrate we can really listen to each other and work towards genuine ‘best-practice’ rather than best lip-service.

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