Justine Kidd: Being safe is 'good business'
Justine Kidd of Theland Farm Group tells Patricia Thompson about how the company engages with workers across its 29 farms.
"One of the things that struck me when I first started working with this company is that health and safety is part of the everyday conversation," says Justine Kidd, chief executive of agribusiness for Theland Farm Group, which has 25 dairy farms and four dairy support farms in the North Island and Canterbury.
"That culture is really the ethos of the business – planning for safety, doing things safely and continuous improvement."
Justine grew up in King Country, the daughter of a rural accountant and a schoolteacher. She studied agricultural science at Massey and first joined the dairy industry in a farm consulting extension role in the early 1990s.
"When I first came into the sector, people weren't reckless but health and safety also wasn't really considered," she says.
"Back then, most farms were owner-operated, it was a business but it was also a way of life. Multiple farm ownership was in its infancy."
Kidd sees the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, which came into force last year, as positive for the sector.
"It brings the topic of health and safety onto the table in the way that is about engaging with people in the business and I think there is a growing understanding that being well and safe at work is just good business and that will help people to put actions around the regulations.
"We employ about 150 people so in some respects, that poses challenges in terms of engaging with your people on health and safety, but in others there are advantages.
"For a start, we have the resource of our health and safety lead, Angie Saywell. Angie gives us a clear programme in terms of compliance so we can focus on things that have real impact and on working with our farm teams on how to do things better and safer.
"We have two major programmes across the business, one is health and safety and the other is our In Synch programme, based on lean management principles.
"They work really well together, and in terms of focusing on continued improvement, health and safety are an integral part of what we do every day."
Approaches to engaging staff include The People Hub, an online programme which workers use to log any incident, near miss or accident via their mobile devices.
"The incident is flagged up to Angie and we have KPIs around response times with the aim of a seven-day turnaround of investigating and coming up with any actions that need to be taken.
"We also collate the information to see if there are any trends. If something happens on one of the farms, we'll look at all the farms with the same or similar machinery or the same kind of dairy to ensure they are safe."
They also use a variety of communication tools including Weekly Slides, a rolling powerpoint on screen in farm offices.
"Whenever people are in the office or during team meetings, it's there rolling. That's a very good way of flagging up health and safety issues and to remind people about things like the need to wear sunblock in the summer or how slippery concrete can get when it's icy."
Saywell also carries out regular audits on dairy sheds and storage areas.
"These 'Six S' audits are efficiency audits and are part of our InSync programme. They are aimed at ensuring systems are in place, visual controls are being used, the workplace is actively organised and everything is stored properly and tidily. Although not specifically about health and safety, tidy organised workplaces are an important health and safety issue for many reasons, not least because slips, trip and falls are a big contributor to farm accident statistics.
"It's become a really good point of competition between the farms in terms of the marks you get, creating new ideas to do better, and is a good activity everyone can partake in.
"We also get teams from different farms together for 'show days' to focus on what a farm team is doing really well and can show others. It might be when we are planning for seasonal events or when a new innovation has been identified or better practice implemented. We have a barbecue and lunch afterwards to make sure everyone is fed, but it's really an opportunity to share good practice and this helps with improving safety.
"Health and safety is part of our everyday conversation. Health and safety on farm, or any workplace, is a team effort and it's important that the business leaders and owners set the tone and standard and lead from the front.
"Safety at work is about everyone looking out for one another – being well and safe at work is a team effort and a vital part of a continual improvement culture."
WorkSafe sector leader for agriculture Al McCone says having regular conversations which include all staff about health and safety risks on the farm is vital.
"The risks associated with farming need to be continually re-assessed and addressed. It's not hard when it's a matter of course, what everybody expects to be involved in, and ultimately it results in a smoother business operation."