Health and safety workshops for farmers

Richard WakelinMore than 3,000 farmers from across the country have taken part in Beef + Lamb New Zealand health and safety workshops during the past year, with strong demand for upcoming events.

Richard Wakelin, General Manager Farms for Beef + Lamb New Zealand, says the one day workshops, initially introduced as a pilot programme before the introduction of new health and safety legislation in April, will be part of the organisation’s programme into the future.

Developed and delivered with support from WorkSafe, Richard says the workshops for sheep and beef farmers continue to be oversubscribed and have received positive feedback.

“Our role is to help farmers make informed business decisions and this was an opportunity to provide a tool to help them,” Richard says.

Beef + Lamb New Zealand worked with risk management company QSI to develop the initial 10 pilot workshops, delivered last spring. The programme is free to farmers and funded through Beef + Lamb New Zealand levies and WorkSafe.

“We worked very closely with WorkSafe on development and implementation,” Richard says. “Inspectors from WorkSafe have attended most of the 90 workshops we’ve delivered so far. It’s important for farmers to have WorkSafe in the room. There are many myths and misconceptions out there and WorkSafe has helped dispel those and provide clarity on expectations.”

Workshops run from 9.00am-3.00pm with a maximum of 30 participants working through a specially-designed workbook. “It helps farmers understand the various elements they need to adopt and implement a health and safety plan.

“The focus is on identifying risks and developing a culture around engaging their on-farm teams, in terms of understanding risks and how they might manage them. It’s about raising awareness and developing skills, which farmers can go back to their farms and put into practice.”

Al McCone, WorkSafe’s Sector Lead for Agriculture, says Beef + Lamb New Zealand played a vital role in the ongoing programme of developing a stronger health and safety culture across farming.

“We’re not about telling farmers how to farm but about supporting them to farm more safely. But there are myths around that. It’s hugely valuable to have Beef + Lamb New Zealand stand up and get the real practical messages to farmers. This type of positive sector leadership will make a real difference to farm safety and ultimately to farm productivity.”

Richard says that while many farmers approach workshops with trepidation, they feel very differently by the end. “By the time they leave, they are relieved and positive they can manage the process. They also realise that the requirements are not expensive or onerous to put into place.

“Farmers tell us, anecdotally, about the difference it’s made. We are now gathering information – talking with people some months after they have attended a workshop to understand what changes they have made on their farms.

“We really appreciate the support WorkSafe has provided. It is never easy to introduce something new and different but they are really good to deal with and have worked veryAC hard to support us in any way they can.”