Skip to Content, Skip to Navigation

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Staying vulnerable

Staying vulnerable
Article Type:
Publication Date:
New Zealand

"The worst thing you can do is become complacent about safety," delegates at the recent Forest Industry Safety Summit in Rotorua were warned. "I've seen a lot of good changes made, but I still worry every day about whether we'll have another fatality."

Sharing openly about how three fatal accidents in less than seven months affected both him and his organisation, Landcorp CEO Steve Carden said it was important to maintain a sense of vulnerability. "We're a long way from having solved all our problems, and can't afford to lose that constant sense of anxiety."

When he joined Landcorp, some three-and-a-half years ago, Carden said it was regarded - by itself and others - as an industry leader in health and safety. "But all that self-belief about how good we were came crashing down on Sunday May 3 [2015], when a dairy assistant on one of our West Coast farms died in a quad bike accident."

It was the organisation's first fatality in 30 years, but proved to be the beginning of a nightmare. Just 19 days later a second worker was fatally crushed when a side-by-side vehicle rolled, and in October that same year there was a third death, also involving a side-by-side rollover.

"Responsibility for the deaths of those three people sat with me, and with the others in the safety system we'd developed," Carden said. "We realised that everything we thought we were doing right we were doing completely wrong. Our safety systems were flawed, and we had to completely change the way we thought."

Recognising that unsafe behaviours had become part of daily life on Landcorp farms, Carden and his team knew they had to find ways to infuse safety into every decision, conversation, and activity. The first step of the process was to get rid of clutter. Farm noticeboards, often overflowing with well intentioned but distracting safety reminders, were stripped bare, and an incident analysis conducted, to pick out the risks most likely to result in injury.

"We found eight critical risks that accounted for about 75% of our injuries."

Comprehensive bow-tie analyses of these, backed by a company pledge of funding to fix anything identified as unsafe, resulted in a package of control measures, including the replacement of most quad bikes with other vehicles.

Safety leadership was another priority area. It became a key focus for senior managers, and was reinforced across the organisation with a series of one- and two-day training workshops, delivered to all staff by a new in-house safety academy.

Strategies were also developed to tackle underlying issues - things like fatigue, isolation, long hours, poor nutrition and mental health problems - that could contribute to unsafe behaviour. "We can't address safety unless we know people are in the right headspace to manage risks on a daily basis."

Eighteen months down the track Carden says the best thing they have done is set up a safety forum comprised of farm staff.

"This group meets every three weeks and makes all the decisions around safety. It's been a fantastic addition to our safety thinking, because they work on the farms and have all the answers. What they say has huge credibility too, but is also incredibly practical. They make sure things are going to work, because they're the ones who'll be implementing them."

Despite the positive progress, Carden said he will never allow himself, or his organisation, to forget the impact of the fatalities.

"A big element of getting safety right is constantly remembering what went wrong. It's part of our story now, of who we are, and what we've become. When people come into our organisation they need to understand what we've been through to arrive at where we are now."



People Mentioned:
Steve Carden
Organisations Mentioned:
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Table of Contents