The Grim Harvest
Finch Farm - Family safety
Hayden and Rachael Finch are 50/50 sharemilkers on a 191-hectare dairy farm near Rakaia in Canterbury, milking 725 cows through a 40-bail rotary shed. They live on the farm with their two young children and employ three full-time staff.
Both Hayden and Rachael grew up on farms, so have always been aware of the hazards involved in farming. Their awareness of health and safety grew while they were both working in the gold mining industry in Western Australia. A series of major incidents, including a fatality, heightened their understanding of the importance of having good health and safety processes in place.
The couple see their business as a ‘system’, with all parts of the operation impacting on each other. They understand that staff who work safely and efficiently are going to improve the productivity of their farm. Staff who feel safe, valued and equipped with the right skills have the confidence and capability to be effective, efficient and productive.
It’s a team approach
Health and safety, and hazard identification are standing items on the agenda of the regular meetings the couple hold with their staff around the kitchen table with tea and cake. Everyone is involved in the decision-making process, and staff are encouraged to come up with ideas on the best way forward.
It’s about investing in your staff
This staff investment starts on the first day with a full induction programme and training. Staff are introduced to the various hazards as they go onto each new task, and a buddy system helps them gain confidence. Staff are also encouraged to do training courses.
By making their working hours more comparable to a ‘town’ job, with a ‘six and two’ roster (six days on/two days off), the Finches have found their roster attracts staff and helps them stay alert. They also noticed a huge improvement in staff productivity after they began sharing the evening meal with them. They found their staff were a lot more active and engaged.
It’s about having clear policies and procedures
The Finch’s hazard manual is a living document that is constantly reviewed as new machinery and chemicals come onto the farm. It sets out all the identified hazards and explains how they can be managed.
It’s about having a positive, safe and healthy workplace culture
The Finches run their farm with their hearts and heads. The result is a positive, safe and healthy culture. They have witnessed the personal tragedies caused by poor health and safety, and because their farm is the family home as well as their business, health and safety is imperative. They are also aware of the business benefits from valuing staff and having good health and safety systems in place.