In a woolshed at Carterton’s Tokaroa Farm, Wairarapa farmers and rural industry workers gathered last week to learn about a new health and safety campaign aimed at the rural sector.
Agriculture organisation Safer Farms was presenting a new strategy and action plan, Farm Without Harm, as part of its wider campaign tackling rural health and safety practices, Half Arsed Stops Here.
Part of the event included the symbolic signing of a pledge to commit to the campaign’s core message of “protecting each other from preventable harm”, with paperwork balanced on a wool bale.
Safer Farms chair and Wairarapa farmer Lindy Nelson joked that the event’s biggest health and safety concern was that some signatories may have to step on tiptoes to reach the paperwork.
However, when it came down to statistics about rural health and safety, and wellbeing, Nelson said it is no laughing matter.
“Why are we all here today?” Nelson asked.
“We produce around $53 billion of world-class food, yet there is an unacceptable human cost in this production.”
Nelson went on to emphasise that at least one person dies every four weeks on
New Zealand farms.
“Outside of agriculture, when a similar number of people die in a safety failure we have a whole country response,” said Nelson.
“Our farms, our families, and rural communities are absorbing these disaster numbers yearly as single seemingly unconnected incidents.”
Other speakers included Pāmu chief executive and Safer Farms director Mark Leslie, and Beef and Lamb general manager extension Justine Kidd.
Among those attending the presentation was Te Tumu Paeroa project manager Sam Vivian-Greer, who has been farming in Wairarapa for just over a decade.
Vivian-Greer said he has noticed a rise in the active discussion surrounding rural health and safety practices during his
time in the industry.
“Ten years ago it was almost a bit of a dirty word, something you did because you had to,” said Vivian-Greer.
“Now it’s much more readily embraced.”
Due to some “slow followers”, Vivian-Greer said it is all about making noise and keeping the conversation active.
“Everyone’s part of the family and should be well looked after, with industry and support organisations getting on board too,” he said.
Another attendee at the campaign gathering observed that – due to the high risk of personal injury and mental health issues – there is a big need to be proactive.
“We’re a country that rests on its morals – being proactive, you’re more likely to make a real change.”