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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Kia ora, kia kaha, kia mana

JOE SCHUMACHER describes how a diverse group has been selected for maximum diversity and then empowered to deliver key H&S policy initiatives.

The Pāmu Safety Forum is one of the key foundations in our approach to safety leadership, and one of two critical elements in how Pāmu Farms of New Zealand meets and exceeds the requirements of Part Three of the HSW Act.

Membership is predominantly selective rather than elective. While delegates are occasionally put forward by their peers and managers, we made a conscious decision to reach out and engage with the people who we knew possessed the capability, resilience and mana to contribute effectively. Our rationale was that a purely elective approach might not result in the people we needed being put forward.

The makeup of the Forum also features depth and breadth by design. In addition to farm managers, we have a diverse bunch of delegates from procurement, HR and executive leadership, as well as specific roles including a tractor driver. We needed to understand the totality of our organisation as it related to H&S, while actively avoiding confirmation bias associated with a homogenous group of people. Diversity is the key.

Length of participation is dynamic, with people only remaining active for as long as they feel capable of contributing; by the same token there are no defined limitations on how long someone can participate.

The reputation of the Pāmu Safety Forum as an effective, credible and influential group is really the only incentive to participation, as delegates are not otherwise rewarded or recognised. Participation in the forum meetings requires at least a day out of an already busy employee’s day, which indicates the level of commitment and dedication required.

The Forum meets in person for a full day on a quarterly basis. The operational and financial cost of getting the forum together, while considerable, pales next to the opportunities to positively influence safe outcomes on farm. To ensure the best use of time, the agenda is compiled, reviewed, challenged and confirmed long before the day. We test the agenda items against three key questions:

  • • 
    what is the expected outcome?
  • • 
    how does it benefit the organisation?
  • • 
    is this the best use of our time?’

Key policy initiatives around H&S are one of the main issues forum members consider. They have the ability to profoundly influence policy outcomes, even to a point of terminating an initiative or part thereof if it does not resonate.

One of the forum’s early products was the Pāmu Key Safety Expectations regime, five simple statements preceded by “we will always” which define some of the foundational H&S practices on farm. The forum has also contributed to critical risk (bow ties), fitness for work, driver behaviour, nutrition, and our Kids on Farm policy.

The H&S team are all permanent members of the forum, both to provide technical insights as well as coaching to the other delegates on safety practice, philosophy and leadership. The level of coaching required from H&S is envisaged to naturally decline over time as the forum and wider organisational culture moves to a generative, self-sustaining state.

The basic philosophies which we believe keep the forum on form are Ora (our work contributes to the wellness of the organisation), Kaha (our decisions and recommendations carry weight and we deliberate on matters of influence), and Mana (we are respected, cherished and supported by our colleagues, leadership and board). Kia Ora, Kia Kaha, Kia Mana.

Supporting the Pāmu Safety Forum as our centre of excellence is our second critical element. Instead of identifying, training and empowering a selection of workers as traditional H&S representatives, we made a conscious decision to do so for all employees. Leaders in the organisation (from farm manager to CEO) have been through our two-day Safety Leadership programme, while all other full-time workers and a growing number of casuals go through a streamlined one-day Safe Behaviour programme.

We chose to have 700+ HSRs and leaders rather than a select few.

While our specific approach might not be “best fit” for other organisations, we believe that the core philosophies are portable across industry:

  • • 
    Understand the expertise needed to achieve success; if it doesn’t come to you, go get it.
  • • 
    Keep it useful, relevant and meaningful.
  • • 
    Support from governance all the way down is vital.
  • • 
    Consider an approach of “every employee as a safety leader” as a way of generating quality safety conversations at every level of the organisation.

Joe Schumacher is health and safety manager with Pāmu Farms of New Zealand (Landcorp).

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