Improving our on-farm Health and Safety Culture in Rural New Zealand.

Executive Summary

New Zealand as a country has a proud farming history with our farming culture having been built on a can do, ‘she’ll be right’ mindset. However, this same culture is killing our people. On a per capita basis New Zealand has some of the highest statistics in workplace fatalities with agriculture being the worst performing sector. This paper seeks to define culture in the health and safety context, and to understand where our current cultural level is on-farm in Rural New Zealand. It also seeks to understand where we should prioritise to improve this culture.

A review of the literature was completed, along with discussions with many of the key authors to develop a deeper understanding of their research. Additional research was also undertaken in the form of a survey completed by twenty New Zealand Young Farmers member’s nationwide.

This paper explores the definition of culture including work from Edgar Schein, George Stevenson and Jess Berentson-Shaw. This paper establishes that culture involves multiple people, is based on assumptions to solve problems, and is learned and shared. Through the literature review this paper found our culture is risk tolerant and as a nation we have negative perceptions towards health and safety largely because of the associated compliance. This was validated through this paper’s survey. However, it was found that compliance can have a positive impact on change. Recent work completed by Francois Barton and Gareth Chaplin suggest that culturally there are positive signals coming from the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. This was again validated in the survey as well as the fact that survey participants felt we are making progress. Al McCone suggested that health and safety was legislated because it’s important, and it’s not important just because it’s legislated.  

The following recommendations are made, based on the findings within the report: 

  • Change our ‘she’ll be right’ mentality to one of ‘do it right’
  • Provide education to individuals on farm to drive ownership and accountability within the health and safety space.
  • Promote the positive health and safety messages within the industry.
  • Offer appropriate incentives to help drive a positive culture change.

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