Emma Dangen

Emma is the grand finalist from Waikato/Bay of Plenty. Learn about her approach to health and safety.

Health and safety on farm viewed from a ‘contractor’ perspective

Having grown up on a farm, living on a farm now and with most of her work as a vet carried out on dairy farms, FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist Emma Dangen gets to have a lot of safety conversations.

Emma, the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional winner, works for a veterinary practice in Te Awamutu. Ninety-five per cent of her call outs are to dairy cattle. She completed her studies at Massey University last year and says there was a strong focus on safety during university placements.

“There were formal processes in place around health and safety and the clear message from our tutors was ‘If it isn’t safe, don’t do it,” she says.

“I grew up on a farm and I live on a farm but you have a different perspective when you are on a farm as a visitor contracted to do a job.  As a vet, I find farmers will usually let me know when I arrive if an animal is a bit lively or agitated. Sometimes, however, I may deal with a farm worker who may not necessarily know that information – which illustrates the importance of ongoing safety conversations – and passing on information.

“Generally, I’ll turn up and assess the situation and have a conversation with the farmer to decide on the safest approach. It might be that I need to use a halter or a head bale or the animal needs to be sedated.

“You need to identify and record the risks on your farm but you don’t have to whip out a checklist and follow it. For me, the most important thing is about communication – the kind of conversations I have with farmers on a daily basis and which I had with my father while growing up.”

Emma grew up helping out on her family farm, which rears about 700 calves a year. She now lives on a dairy farm managed by her fiancé.

“My father has always been very safety conscious,” she says. “He had worked in sawmills and the forestry industry in the past and had a few close calls so he was very aware around risks.

“We didn’t have staff and we didn’t have stuff written down back then, but he made sure we were trained and competent before we were allowed to do any jobs or use any equipment.

“There was always a conversation about safety first too. It wasn’t formal, just casual everyday conversation about the risks. Things like ‘watch out for that’ or ‘hey, let’s do it this way instead.’

“Just making those kinds of ongoing safety conversations as business as usual is what makes farms safer. Good health and safety isn’t about lots of paperwork – although there will be plenty of paperwork to deal with if someone does have an accident. Good health and safety is simply good business practice.”

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. During the next seven weeks we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work, from a dairy farm manager to a veterinarian.