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Dr Dougall launches groundbreaking safety net for farmers affected by resource companies

Announcement posted by Invigorate PR 10 Jul 2024

Highly respected farmer advocate and workplace health safety and environment expert, Dr Shay Dougall, has, through her doctoral research, revealed a new workplace health and safety interface that is designed to assist farmers to better manage their human rights and engagement with unconventional gas companies.      

Dr Dougall has formulated a powerful WHS framework to enable fairer power relations for farmers with unconventional gas (UG) projects. Through her consultancy, Molliwell, she is now working on sharing the outcomes of her research with farmers required to host energy company activities by offering a toolkit that simplifies the process of reporting and facilitates fairer power-sharing, consultancy and compensation through the assertion that a farm is an operating workplace where appropriate workplace health and safety standards must be applied when a farm 'hosts' UG projects.


Combining her strong health safety and environment (HSE) expertise in the energy sector and substantial experience consulting with host farmers, Dr Dougall provides farmers with access to a unique app that enables them to simply take a photo in order to receive expert advice about WHS impacts of UG projects on their land.


"I am excited to be sharing my revolutionary WHS framework and tool kit. Understanding the significance of a farmer's right to a safe and healthy workplace is imperative. It is a stance that has never been taken into consideration before by governments or gas companies when dealing with farmers and I believe it will deliver unparalleled levels of opportunity for farmers to voice and manage their rights, needs and concerns," Dr Dougall said.


Founded on expertise in energy industry HSE, farming and consulting


This unique and effective approach to winning back agency for farmers is the result of many years of industry and HSE/WHS expertise and farmer advocacy, along with the findings of Dr Dougall's Masters and PhD programs. Dr Dougall worked in HSE in energy contexts since her earliest employment and later became a host farmer herself. Her key concept of the farm as a workplace brings protections under the law that can be asserted effectively to restore balance within a UG - host farmer - WHS nexus.


"I have lived first-hand with the challenges of dealing with unconventional gas companies. I have watched the lives of farmers severely impacted  by governments and companies eager to pursue profits over the human cost of unconventional gas and its profound  impact on animals, water, soil, air and the farming economy," Dr Dougall said.


"Never before has a farmer's livelihood been considered from a workplace health and safety point of view in relation to unconventional gas until now. A farm is a living workplace and it must be respected and treated as such, with all the protections that any place of work would enjoy regardless of the industry or location."


Research from a unique 'insider' position


Dr Dougall brings a unique 'insider' position to her research, her consultancy and her advocacy. Having married into the farming community in the Western Downs region of Queensland, Dr Dougall has developed strong friendships within the community that enable her to access the experience of UG hosting from the point of view of the farmers who have to share their home, business and workplace with UG projects. This gives her a unique perspective and sense of advocacy that represents the farmer's point of view. Her passion is firmly based within her own experiences, with challenges including death, illness and hardship of family and friends associated with hosting the UG industry.


Herself a host farmer, Dr Dougall has advocated directly for 60 other host farmers in the Western Downs region.


Getting the message out to farmers across Australia


Dr Dougall has conducted her research and acted as an advocate within her local community and beyond in Queensland. Now she would like the strategy and research outcomes to be carried to farmers throughout Australia in order to increase awareness and embed fair and best WHS practices, rights and considerations for the farming occupational group when energy projects encroach onto farms.      

"The toolkit is a pro-farm perspective that requires proper consideration of the host farmer role and particularly farmers' WHS rights when co-locating energy projects in a host farmer's workplace," Dr Dougall said.


"Workplace laws involve human rights and it is important that farmers across the country now understand that there are legal obligations and a framework of support for the protection of their farming workplaces, families and livelihoods.


"The UG - host farmer - WHS nexus provides a new level of consideration when energy companies are dealing with farmers. The government may require gas companies to meet environmental and other requirements, however my research reveals that now, they must meet a higher level of requirement involving the health and safety of a farmer's workplace."


Currently consulting with host farmers and furthering her Doctoral Research, Dr Dougall hopes to assist as many farmers and their advocates as possible in applying the toolkit.


"I also hope to continue my research in this newly revealed interface and have the toolkit used to make these essential changes to UG governance arrangements and promote dialogue and progress," Dr Dougall said.

"As the only HSE professional working in this space, I revealed this unique nexus (UG - host farmer - WHS) in my research and am uniquely positioned to leverage my research in the real world through one-on-one support of host farmers as well as further delving into this research nexus using my unique positionality, connecting with the real world of host farmers through participatory action research.


"I have been involved in the HSE field in the energy sector including waste to energy, land fill gas, coal seam gas, hydro and wind in the UK, USA, New Zealand and Australia, since my first job out of university. I bring real life understanding and knowledge about what host farmers will experience and how the current regulatory arrangements affect them, as well as lots of experience dealing with individual gas companies and lawyers."


How does Dr Dougall assist farmers


Dr Dougall is committed to the minimisation and prevention of future injuries, disease and fatalities for host farmers and to improving their position in the contractual negotiations that govern unconventional gas operations on their land and in their business.


As part of Dr Dougall's services, she offers specialised audits, consultation and comprehensive reports regarding WHS impacts risks to a farmer for legal consideration before signing long-term access agreements. This service is also available to host farmers with a current CCA.


This unique service is as simple as the host farmer seeing a problem, photographing it and using Dr Dougall's private and confidential app - GasHAZ - to send an image.

Dr Dougall will provide the host farmer with the following support:

● expert description of the hazard and its implications
● draft appropriate complaints to be provided to the gas company and relevant government departments
● where necessary arrange for relevant monitoring and testing
● liaise on the farmer's behalf with the relevant parties regarding the complaints
● maintain ongoing records for future actions on the farmer's own private web page

Dr Shay Dougall is a member of the Australian Institute Health and Safety.