Farmer Focus: Two serious accidents focus the mind on safety

Last month in my column I reflected on a serious accident we had here at Valetta and how fortunate we were that the outcome was positive.

I was quite deliberate in not discussing the details, because actually the specifics of the mishap were irrelevant and distracting.

What occurred was the result of a simple oversight by two highly experienced staff members and it was not a task that one would necessarily rank as a priority risk point or a classical farmyard hazard.

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It is that very point that I am grappling with, how do we manage the multitude of very diverse hazards and risks that we and our staff encounter on a daily basis?

Assessing risk

I have been working with Worksafe, our safety regulator and Federated Farmers to explore the merits of a Health & Safety Programme called ‘Take 5’, which broadly consists of stepping back at the start of a task and assessing risk with the five steps:

STOP – think about the potential dangers associated with the job.
LOOK – identify any hazards.
ASSESS – the risk. Consider any possible threat of damage or injury.
MANAGE – controls. Implement suitable control measures to reduce risk. Ensure other persons who are affected by the same matter are informed about the hazard.
SAFELY – complete the task.

But as we have been working through this process, another incident elsewhere has caused me to realise that just as important as managing risk is building and maintaining the capability to respond to accident.

I am so grateful that Jayne has always been so insistent that we attend first aid training and keep our first responder certificates up to date; and I now realise how vitally important it is to get extra people around you fast to provide help while awaiting emergency services.

We are now talking with our neighbours to set up a ‘Text Alert’ network to muster help quickly in time of emergency.

Both of these events have rocked me personally. My message is simple, please actively manage risk as a team and ensure you, your family and your staff have current first aid training.


David Clark runs a 463ha fully irrigated mixed farm with his wife Jayne at Valetta, on New Zealand’s South Island. He grows 400ha of cereals, pulses, forage and vegetable seed crops, runs 1,000 Romney ewes and finishes 8,000 lambs annually.