The health and safety of its people is the No 1 priority for one of the country’s largest farming groups. Theland Purata and Tahi Farm Groups collectively own 29 farms across New Zealand – 13 in the South Island (formerly known as Purata) with the balance in the North Island (formerly known as the Crafar farms).
The company’s commitment to fostering a culture where everyone looks out for each other recently contributed to the farming group achieving secondary level ACC Workplace Safety Management Practices accreditation.
Theland Farm Group Health and Safety Manager, Angie Saywell, says the accreditation – and the audit which preceded it “allowed the Group to showcase a selection of the many initiatives which have been implemented to keep our people safe.
“You won’t find any box ticking here, rather a genuine commitment to safety, led from the Boardroom to the dairy shed and everywhere in between.
“Historically, agriculture hasn’t had a great track record when it comes to safety and we have been working hard to help lead the change in culture necessary to send every member of our team home safe, every day.”
Angie Saywell joined Purata in early 2016 in what she describes as her dream job.
“I’ve been working as a health and safety practitioner for nearly a decade after completing Bachelors of Science and Arts at Otago University. I started my career with ACC in assessment and case coordination roles, but wasn’t satisfied being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. An opportunity to join ACC’s Injury Prevention Team saw me undertake a Post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health through Massey University – and my passion in this field grew from there.
“Home for me is also on farm – my husband Pete and I are in our second season of contract milking on Pete’s family farm near Geraldine – and the hands-on experience helps me understand the unique environment which can compromise health and safety. My initial role with Purata and then Theland simply cemented my passion for making a difference.”
“Working with Theland Senior Leadership Team we have achieved a level of engagement across the business that we are proud of. We apply a ‘One Farm, One Team’ approach that helps drive our culture and we share challenges, ideas and successes across all of our farms to ensure we don’t reinvent the wheel at each worksite.”
What has made Theland’s health and safety programme so successful is that it is owned and driven by the entire team, Angie Saywell saying initial engagement is achieved once you relate workplace health and safety with personal and family time.
“We all want to go home safe at the end of each day and the key lies in helping people recognize the impact an accident could have on the time they spend with their children, family, friends or interests.
“We are very clear to consult with our people, and communicate the ‘why’ behind everything we introduce and roll-out on farm. If our team understand why they do something a certain way or why they need to do it at all, it achieves much better buy-in.
“Engagement is achieved through daily meetings where health and safety is always the first point of discussion. We also have an active health and safety committee with representatives from each farm team.”
Angie says recruiting the right people has been another key to the success of our health and safety programme.
“We understand the qualities and skills that make great leaders, and support our people with their career progression goals. We work closely with our Farm Managers to ensure they understand their health and safety responsibilities and keep them well informed particularly regarding changes to the health and safety legislation. We don’t expect them to be health and safety experts, but we do expect them to lead by example, and keeping them up-to-date helps them do that effectively.
“It has also been very important to understand our cultural diversity and communicate appropriately with our people. English is a second language for many of our team members so we make use of visual controls to ensure health and safety is easily understood by everyone.”
Theland farms are equipped with meaningful displays of health and safety information including farm hazard maps, emergency procedures, and signage. In late 2015 an online reporting system was also introduced which can be accessed from dairy shed computers and mobile phones capturing all accidents, incidents, near-misses and hazards. The system allows the Group to analyse data to identify trends including key hazards involved in incidents, giving insight to the culture of reporting across all farms and worksites.
An orientation programme helps identify training needs when a new person joins the team and internal training sessions are held throughout the dairy season to ensure people have appropriate skills to complete their work tasks safely.
Despite the size and spread of Theland farming group, Angie Saywell says the culture is very family oriented.
“Go onto any one of our farms and you will experience the same culture. Everyone looks out for each other, quick to raise concerns if they see an unsafe act and this commitment extends to contractors and visitors.”
Angie Saywell says there is no one-size-fits-all approach to engaging people in safety.
“It’s a long and often bumpy journey that requires a genuine commitment from the business and its leaders. This commitment is driven by culture not by compliance. Our teams know we will listen, consult with them when introducing new policies or procedures, take their feedback on board, and tweak our systems to ensure they meet our needs and keep us safe. This may mean that we don’t do things the way everyone else does but that’s ok here at Theland Farm Group – we are not afraid to think outside the square.”
A recent review of Theland Farm Group Health and Safety event data reveals near-misses and non-injury Health and Safety events account for nearly three-quarters of all reported events. Each of those near-misses and non-injury events are investigated to identify any opportunity to prevent a recurrence, teams are involved in investigations and learnings are shared across the business.
“Continuous improvement is part of every commitment we make at Theland Farm Group and health and safety is no different – we will never reach a point where we think things are perfect, there will always be opportunities to do things safer, easier, better and faster. The desire to continuously improve will keep driving our culture,” Angie Saywell said.
Sam Brooker has been Unit Manager at Theland Purata Treevale farm, moving into the role of Farm Manager at Theland Tahi from 1 June.
“After working in the Theland Purata team for around five years, and being on the Health and Safety Committee for four of those years, I’ve have grown from the ‘she’ll be-right’ attitude of yester-year to one of safety must come first not just my farm but throughout the entire business.
“The Group’s commitment to health and safety means I don’t have to worry about coming to work and being asked, or asking another team member, to do something that could result in them being seriously hurt or worse.
“It also means my family can take comfort in the fact that when I walk out the door to go to work I’m in an environment that puts health and safety as its top priority which means a lot in an industry that can potentially be very dangerous.
Jason and Katy Day both work as 2IC’s at Theland Tahi’s Taharua Farm near Taupo.
“The Health and Safety culture here at Theland Tahi has really kicked up a gear over the last year. To be involved with people who understand the importance of their own and their workmates’ safety is a really satisfying feeling. Knowing we all go home safe at the end of the day is what it is all about really.
“Being exposed to the inner workings of the health and safety system is really important; if you have support from management like we do here at Theland, it enables you to fully understand what they want to achieve and this ensures a positive attitude towards health and safety, making it part of your everyday thinking.”
Cody Rickerby is the youngest Dairy Assistant at Theland Purata’s Robindale Farm.
“Purata’s commitment to my safety makes me feel like a valued and important member of their team. It makes me feel motivated to get up for work everyday. We really feel looked after with the gear they provide us with and the training they offer. I like that even though I’m the youngest team member, I’m encouraged to share my ideas and try new things. It’s all about us!
“My understanding of safety has changed massively, it didn’t used to be something that I talked about and now we talk about it all the time. We work in a big team and communication is so important. We have a voice and can speak up when things aren’t right. We talk regularly about hazards on farm and we get to help find solutions.”
Julien Uguen is the Supplementary Feed and Machinery Manager for Dunsandel Dairies.
“The group’s commitment to health safety means everybody cares for each other and I feel like the leaders really care for their team members. At the end of the day the cows are still the priority, so we want to be around in one piece to take care of them. It also brings more human relationships across the business and helps people to interact with each other.
“Before I was looking at things from the wrong angle thinking health and safety was a hassle, a restriction or something we must do because the boss decided or because it’s the law.
“The communication with our Health and Safety Manager is the key of the success. Her dairy farming back ground helps a lot. She made us understand how we could be involved, and each of us could take ownership of it and be a leader in that area, regardless of our position in the team or farming experience.
“People with no New Zealand dairy farming back ground have to face great challenges and being safe makes their life more simple. People shouldn’t be injured at work, but it happens, and it will always happen. We must minimize the risk as much as we can not to put more pressure on other team members and, of course, the cows.
“The development of E-tools really helps us to implement our health and safety system (People Hub, e-sign in/out, farm maps etc) and be very proactive even with the contractors coming on site.
“The no blame culture is important to build trust with team members so they can report what happened to them and what they consider not safe.
“The health and safety committee is really important too. The monthly meetings, with a representative from every team (farms, maintenance, vets and office) from the farm assistant to the CEO, help us to be pro-active and ensures information flows across the business. The main positive outcome, is that we keep the health and safety commitment connected to the reality of dairy farming.”