Thursday, 05 November 2020 09:08

Being tough just not enough

Written by  Staff Reporters
Lisa Kendall says her views about farm health and safety have changed for the better. Lisa Kendall says her views about farm health and safety have changed for the better.

Auckland-born and bred Northern region Young Farmer of the Year winner Lisa Kendall reckons because she didn’t grow up on the land she felt a lot of pressure to fit in and be tough when she went into farming.

“I avoided thinking about the health and safety side because I didn’t want to be ‘that Auckland girl’.” However, her views have now changed and she explains why…

Three things have changed Franklin-based Kendall’s perspective – maturity, becoming an employer herself, and a back injury resulting from “years of abuse” lifting too-heavy weights in the workplace. 

Her business, Nurture Farming, provides contracting services for lifestyle blocks and she is focused strongly on ongoing risk management assessments for every job. 

Kendall has a Diploma in Agriculture and a Diploma in Farm Management, both from Lincoln. She also has a Certificate in Advanced Personal Training and a Graduate Certificate in Science and Technology from Massey. 

Kendall began her farming career working on sheep and beef and dairy farms, punctuated by two OEs. Some of her employers provided the opportunity to do training courses in using equipment. However, the overall approach to health and safety was fairly hands off.

“Because I was trying to fit in, I avoided thinking about the health and safety side,” she says. “I guess I was ‘younger and dumber’ and when I was working for others I didn’t feel the same responsibility back then. My approach was ‘I’ll keep myself out of trouble and others need to keep themselves out of trouble too.’”

Kendall says as she’s got older and wiser, she started to recognise how terrible she’d feel if she saw someone doing something unsafe and didn’t say anything and they injured themselves. 

“I’ve realised I would rather be laughed at than see someone in hospital.”

Kendall launched Nurture Farming four years ago. However, due to her back injury, she is now working full time for Farmlands as an assistant business manager. 

“I launched the business to provide contracting services for lifestyle blocks – everything from shearing to fencing, spraying and installing water lines,” she explains. 

“I had a small number of employees and, as an employer, obviously I had my legal obligations and had a formal structure around health and safety. We used the Zero Harm Farm system, which was all on the computer and very accessible.”

She says her focus was on active teaching, not just giving someone a manual or instructions. 

“We’d go through the health and safety material as part of the induction. I never let a staff member use a piece of machinery until they had been fully trained and I was confident they were using it safely,” Kendall adds. 

“I always made clear to the people I employed that their safety – and that of those around them – comes first. If they think there is risk in doing something, then they won’t get told off if a job doesn’t get done because it takes longer than expected.”

In Kendall’s experience, lifestyle block owners may not always be as attuned to the risks on their properties. 

“They aren’t negligent or trying not to be helpful, but they may not be used to having machinery around,” she says. “Contractors on lifestyle blocks should always feel happy to ask owners the same questions you would ask a farmer.”

She says she’d have a conversation with owners to ask what they needed to know about risks on their property and she’d also do her own risk assessment too. 

“We’d walk around and they’d point out things like a boggy corner of a gully. If they were providing a particular chemical for us to use, we’d ask about its hazard classification.

“Equally, we’d talk to owners about managing the risks around our work. One of the big focuses was the work zone. On a farm, you’re in a much bigger space, but on a lifestyle block, you are likely to be closer to living areas. It’s about making sure everyone on the property knows not to come into the work zone and being very clear about what that zone is.” 

Kendall says kids are also a big issue on lifestyle blocks. 

“They may well wander out to watch and you could be spraying or using a tractor. It’s hard for kids to resist when they see interesting stuff going on outside. I always asked clients to keep children inside and keep an eye on them.”

Having suffered her own ongoing back injury, Kendall is also aware of the importance of teaching staff correct lifting techniques and impressing the importance of seeking help rather than lifting anything that is too heavy. 

“Again, that comes back to the ‘wanting to be tough’ sort of thing. I would just overuse my back quite badly, rather than asking someone to help me lift something or using machinery to help lift,” she admits. 

“When I came into farming, there wasn’t as much information or focus on health and safety. Now, industry organisations are so open about it and provide a lot of resources and information – it’s all there online and easily accessible.”

Kendall believes it’s great that every Young Farmers club now has a health and safety rep. 

“It’s so good to see it being taken seriously at a smaller scale and social level – that is a great way of learning for Young Farmers and a good platform for them to transition into agricultural study and the workplace.” 

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