Alan is the grand finalist from Aorangi. Learn about his approach to health and safety.

Making health and safety simply ‘business as usual’

Agricultural classes at Waitaki Boys High School set FMG Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist Alan Harvey on the path to making health and safety simply a ‘business as usual’ part of his approach to farming.

“That was ahead of the new Health and Safety at Work Act coming into force, but health and safety was always a big part of everything we did in our agricultural training at school – so it just became second nature to me,” says Alan, who won the 2019 Aorangi FMG Young Farmer competition.

“I’m operations manager of a fairly large dairy farm business, with around 20 staff. We don’t have formal meetings about health and safety, it’s just an ongoing consideration – we talk about it in every day chat throughout the day.

“That’s just normal for us. We’ll talk about the jobs we are doing and how to do them safely. Things like the right vehicle for the job and the terrain and we’ll say things like ‘Don’t take that vehicle up there’. It’s not just about slopes though, I have heard of plenty of farm vehicles having rolled on flat land. 

“Even if contractors know the place well, I’ll have a chat to point out anything they need to know – stuff like ‘there’s a pivot in there – drive round it, I don’t want you going underneath.’”

Alan grew up on the family sheep and beef farm near Oamaru and gained a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with honours in plant science from Lincoln. After graduating, he worked for AgriSeeds, becoming an agronomist, and then for a year for AgriPlanz, which provides services including farm mapping, nutrient budgeting and environmental and biosecurity work.

He took up his current role with Borst Holdings Ltd, near to his family home, in March this year and has plans to further develop health and safety procedures for the company’s farms.

“We have good basics in place,” he says. “The hazards have been identified and mapped, including things like creeks and effluent ponds. Our PPE includes high viz overalls and we provide regular ongoing training for all our staff to make sure they are competent with all of our vehicles and machinery.

 “Getting buy-in from your people around health and safety is essential and we do have good buy-in from our people here. But we recognise we still have some work to do around our health and safety processes. That’s something I am going to be working on.

“It’s important to keep an eye out for if people are struggling, especially with the long hours during times like calving – and makes sure you address that – perhaps bringing on some more help.

“When I was growing up on farm, the approach to health and safety was all about ‘common sense’ and ‘don’t stick your fingers in the wrong place’. But things have moved on and that’s good for farming and good for farm businesses.”

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. During the next seven weeks we will be sharing a profile and short video about each of the finalists and how they incorporate health and safety into their work, from a dairy farm manager to a veterinarian.