This morning we hear, from Radio New Zealand, that WorkSafe New Zealand has been accused of selling farm workers’ safety short by not prosecuting farmers for dangerous practices.
In some quarters there is concern that a lack of WorkSafe prosecution of farmers that breach workplace health and safety regulation, are one of the reasons for the farming sector’s continuing poor performance from a safety point of view.
In response to this, WorkSafe is of the opinion that education is the key to improved health and safety in the farming sector, rather than whacking people with a stick. WorkSafe is being smart by not going in “guns blazing against farmers”, as farmers already have a long held “us verses them” type mentality.
As the son of a dairy farmer, I can understand their point of view. For years, farmers believe they have been steadily improving how they behave, to keep inline with progressively stricter regulation. One just needs to look at the improvements in environmental regulation, food hygiene regulations, animal health practices, safety & training and employment regulation to see the progress that has been made.
Alienating farmers is of little use to anyone. Shifting the mentality of farmers towards being proactive about workplace safety will take time, education and trust.
The ideal scenario is that farmers are aware of safety risks on their farms, wherever they may be, and are educated about the true costs these risks pose. Technology, like ThunderMaps reporting tools, can help give farmers this level of risk awareness, but if farmers don’t understand the value of mitigating risks there will be more resistance from them, rather than progress.