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“Good health and safety is a big part of looking after your team. A happy team means happy cows and if you’ve got that you’ve got a more profitable farm,” says Jack Raharuhi.
Jack speaks from experience. Just four months after taking over an underperforming dairy unit at Cape Foulwind, he had “lifted health and safety to another level” and boosted productivity by 80 per cent.
At 24, Jack, the 2016 Ahuwhenua Young Māori Dairy Farmer of the Year, has nine years of farming experience under his belt, the last three as a farm manager.
Tragically, he has also experienced losing a friend in a workplace accident, when the quad bike she was using to tow a magnesium spreader rolled.
Jack previously managed Landcorp’s Bassets Dairy Unit before taking on the challenge of the underperforming Totara farm, one of the organisation’s cluster of three Cape Foulwind dairy units, in June 2016.
On both farms, he has worked closely with the units’ Business Manager Rebecca Keoghan to drive productivity and build a strong health and safety culture.
Jack has a base of five staff, increasing to eight for the busiest six months of the year, and engaging them in hazard identification and management is a key part of his approach. “When I first started farming health and safety pretty much came down to ‘don’t be a dumbarse’ - but things are very different now,” he says.
“Rebecca has a strong health and safety background and we have worked together to really lift things to the next level – we recently invited a WorkSafe inspector to assess the farm and that was a really positive experience.
“Job hazard identification is a big part of what we do. Before we start a big job, we all sit down as a team and identify the risks between us and discuss how to mitigate them.
“It’s really important to involve everyone. It’s amazing how much managers forget and the guys on the ground remember. We’ll talk about the upcoming work and they’ll pitch in with a lot of good ideas. It might be stuff like ‘check for cow poo before you climb fences so you don’t slip,’ or “remember your gloves when tagging heifers because you don’t want a tag through your hand.’
“We write it all down on big forms, laminate it and stick copies around the cowsheds or wherever that work is being done. We also have a whiteboard where everyone can share near misses or reminders and that’s very well used. If someone trips over a bucket, they’ll put it on the board.”
Hi-vis clothing is compulsory and everyone coming onto the farm, including staff, sign in and out. Every worker carries a personal locator beacon and there’s a ‘one hour’ policy for anyone working alone. “If they haven’t called in within an hour then we’ll call and if they don’t answer we go out and check on them,” said Jack.
“We also have a ‘leaving for home’ policy. No one goes home until we have all met at the shed and then we leave together. That way we know everyone is accounted for and safe.”
Quads bikes are no longer used on Landcorp farms and Jack says his team finds side-by-side ATVs safer and just as effective.
“It’s all really very straightforward. Thinking about and talking about managing hazards and looking out for yourself and others is automatic for all of us now” he says. “You’ll be getting ready for a job and someone will say ‘have you all got your steelcaps? It’s just become part of our culture.”