Achieving excellence in health, safety and wellbeing on farm is about much more than “hi-vis and helmets”, Safer Farms Chair Lindy Nelson says.
“There’s a complex system of interrelated factors and processes impacting on what happens to our people. So that’s supply chains, government regulations, manufactured stuff….they can’t be separated if we’re to make progress.”
Farm Without Harm – a soon-to-launch, sector-wide coalition to protect farming people from preventable harm – is calling for public feedback on its draft strategy. It’s a collective plan and commitment by farming leaders to draw a red line under the sector’s high harm rates.
Led by Safer Farms and a government and sector leaders steering group, Farm Without Harm has developed a draft strategy to redesign the health, safety and wellbeing systems that underpin the lives of farming people. Currently in co-design with stakeholders, the strategy “must reach past the boardroom and into the paddocks and yards of rural New Zealand,” Lindy says.
“We have a draft plan, but now we need to hear the voices of farming people, to ensure our strategy is relevant, practical and something they can get behind.
“We’re asking all farming people with interest in the wellbeing of their team, family or community, to head to the website (www.farmwithoutharm.org.nz ), review the plan and complete a feedback survey.”
Lindy, ONZM, a farmer herself and the founder of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust, took on the Safer Farm’s chair role about 18 months ago. An infusion of new members joined at the same time, including Federated Farmers Vice-President Karen Williams, and a Pamu manager from the West Coast, Jack Raharuhi.
“We had some pretty frank discussions and recognised that despite the efforts of some fantastic people and initiatives, the sector hadn’t really shifted the dial in terms of preventing harm on farm.
“The bigger farming entities – the likes of Dairy Holdings, Pamu, some of the corporate-type farms – had intranets and learning systems so that failures could be addressed quickly. But down on the farm, where do I access that sort of information. How might I learn what’s working for other people?,” Lindy says.
The sector as a whole had no overall strategy that had been collectively agreed on and actioned.
With funding from the likes of Worksafe, Safer Farms partnered with KPMG and set about a national and international search for ideas and best practice.
The draft strategy is built around four key focus areas:
- Psychosocial risks resulting in diminished wellbeing
- Harm experienced while working in and around vehicles and mobile plant
- Muscular stress and injury caused by livestock handling
- Harm caused by exposure to agricultural chemicals and airborne risks
Up to 43 initiatives over a six-year period are proposed in workstreams such as culture change, leadership & collaboration, growing the capability of farming people and data sharing across the system.
We to move away from believing if we just ‘pay more attention or do better’ we’ll be safe, Lindy says. Instead, we need to acknowledge our humanness, be prepared to fail as safely as we can, and be better protected because we have designed harm out of our system, Lindy says.
“There’s not only our terrible on-farm death statistics, there are hidden harms like chemical poisoning and people going into retirement in not good physical shape.
“If anyone deserves a great retirement, it’s farmers. But A/ we’ve got to actually get them there, and B/ we’ve got to get them there healthily.”
Following the consultation phase, Farm without Harm is expected to launch its first initiatives and projects in mid-2022.