Boosting safety at Mahinerangi

Waipori Station manager Dave Vaughan (left) chats with shepherd Bradley Colbourne. Photo: Sally Rae
Waipori Station manager Dave Vaughan (left) chats with shepherd Bradley Colbourne. Photo: Sally Rae
Waipori Station manager Dave Vaughan readily acknowledges the topic of health and safety wouldn't have been brought up a few years ago, if it didn't have to be.

But much had changed in recent years, he said, and it was now something regularly and freely discussed among the 14 team members.

At 12,000ha, Landcorp-owned Waipori Station is a vast property, surrounding Lake Mahinerangi, in the Otago hinterland.

Mr Vaughan and his wife Hayley have been there for five years. Before that, he managed another Landcorp property at Hindon.

During his tenure with the state-owned farming company, health and safety had always been a strong focus.

But it had been ''just evolving more and more'' and, certainly, in the past five or six years, it had moved to the forefront, he said.

Landcorp, New Zealand's biggest farmer, has been focused on driving a health and safety culture change.

A review of its approach and attitudes by external experts found it rated poorly in terms of injury statistics, yet staff throughout the business thought the company was doing health and safety well.

Since then, it had taken a systematic approach of changing attitudes and behaviours throughout the business and introduced various processes and tools to support that.

Its health and safety system had been overhauled, top to bottom, along with complete refresh of its Play It Safe campaign, which was a company-wide call to always follow safety rules on the job, look for hazards and talk about safe practice with workmates.

In 2015, a vehicle review was done and, last year, the number of quad bikes on farms reduced by two-thirds and the number of side-by-sides increased by 50.

Remaining quad bikes were fitted with a Lifeguard rollover protection device, and the Farm Angel emergency beacon.

A speed limiter and seatbelt interlock were fitted to the vast majority of the side-by-side fleet, and helmets were compulsory on the machines.

Personal locator beacons, which used satellite GPS technology tied into the rescue co-ordination centre, were available to all farm staff.

Hazard maps had been created for every farm, documenting the key risks to look out for. High-visibility gear was compulsory on farm for staff and visitors and a full range of branded safety clothing had been provided to staff.

Landcorp's statistics showed major improvement in safety focus and risk identification. Since the Play It Safe launch, there had been a huge increase of ''near miss'' incidents which included near misses, property damage, unsafe behaviour, minor environmental incidents, and discomfort reporting.

In 2014, there were 439 and, in 2015 after two years of Play It Safe, that had increased to 1452.

In 2016, there were 3067 - a 600% increase over the three years.

A company-wide engagement survey showed staff engagement in safety to be 20 percentage points above the benchmark for New Zealand companies.

There had been a tangible shift in the attitude of farm managers and staff. Health and safety was higher on their agenda and they were holding themselves and each other to account, the company said.

A Safety Forum was established involving staff from across the company who helped make decisions about health and safety.

Hayley Vaughan was a member of the forum and she believed it was a beneficial initiative, with farming staff able to point out if suggestions from head office were not necessarily practical.

Rather than rules, it was about culture and everyone should be engaged, Mr Vaughan said.

''The one positive I see out of all this health and safety stuff [is] we talk about it. It's a culture you're happy to discuss,'' Mr Vaughan said.

Everyone was engaged and that was the strength of health and safety on the property, as it was ''conversations you have that create a safe culture'', he said.

Every Monday, there was a staff meeting at Waipori and any health and safety thoughts or concerns were raised.

Accident and ''near miss'' reporting was also done by staff, who were often working by themselves. And every night, he knew that everyone had got home safely.

''It's always about making the right decisions. We talk about that regularly and hope it gets through,'' Mr Vaughan said.

There had been a fairly large mindset change from an attitude of ''she'll be right, have a go'' to ''don't have a go unless you know it's safe'', he said.

New staff received WorkSafe training within three months of beginning work. All new employees were inducted, along with anyone coming on to farm, where hazards were explained, along with their responsibilities.

Mr Vaughan had received only one GPS alert from a quad bike which had tipped on a hill but fortunately, the staff member had already got off it before it had rolled. He was able to go straight to the site to check it out.

Mrs Vaughan said the culture of staff had changed, as well, and she believed they were more aware of their actions.


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