Occupational Health and Safety for banana labourers

Page last updated: Thursday, 6 February 2020 - 9:45am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Harvesting bananas involves a lot of lifting, which increases the risk of injury to workers.

Labouring in tropical conditions also exposes workers to risk of infections such as leptospirosis.

Careful consideration and planning are necessary to manage these risks.

Manual handling

As employers, farmers must provide a safe and healthy working environment for all their employees, as well as for themselves and for any visitors to the farm. Farmers need to be aware of the duties and responsibilities under workplace health and safety legislation.

Two organisations within Western Australia can provide information and assistance with workplace health and safety:

  1. WorkCover WA is the government agency responsible for overseeing the workers' compensation and injury management system in Western Australia. This includes monitoring compliance with the Workers' Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981, informing and educating workers, employers and others about workers' compensation and injury management, and providing an independent dispute resolution system.

  2. WorkSafe is a division of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulations and Safety (DMIRS), the WA agency responsible for the administration of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations 1996 (the OSH regulations). The principal objective of these bills is to promote and secure the safety and health of people in the workplace. 


Leptospirosis is a commonly occurring occupationally-related disease. It is notifiable under the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System.

It is a zoonotic disease, which means a disease that can be passed from an animal species to humans, and has many strains associated with different animal hosts.

Strain Serovars Australis is found mainly in the Northern Territory and North Queensland and is carried by native rats and small marsupials. Northern Western Australia farms should also be vigilant.

Symptoms include:

  • high fever
  • severe headaches
  • chills
  • muscle aches
  • vomiting.

Other possible symptoms include:

  • jaundice
  • red eyes
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhoea
  • rash.

If untreated the patient could develop:

  • kidney damage
  • meningitis
  • liver failure
  • respiratory distress.

The illness lasts between a few days and three weeks, and in rare cases causes death. Workers exhibiting leptospirosis symptoms should consult a doctor. Antibiotics are used to treat the infection.

The main occupational source of infection is the urine of infected animals, and water and soil contaminated with infected urine.

Control measures include:

  • use of personal protection equipment (boots and gloves)
  • thorough washing and clean-up
  • rodent control in the packing shed.



Tara Slaven