Benefits of implementing a safety management system in dairy farming
As a manager of a 640-cow Minstonette Jersey stud and commercial dairy farm based in Tasmania, Jane Sykes understands the importance of dairy farm safety, no-one goes to work to have a catastrophic accident or not go home safe. Holding the position as Chair of Promotions on the board for Jersey Australia, Jane believes it is an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for all, “I want to send everyone home every day and I want to go home every day.”
Dairy workers face unpredictable risks almost daily as Jane points out, in the dairy industry no two days are ever the same. So how do you protect your workplace health and safety, as well as manage the risks to your workers and your business when livestock don’t act the same day in and day out or the bull has a bad day?
With a passion for cows and dairy farming, Jane and her team do their best to manage risks and maintain a safety system, but they do acknowledge they need some support when it comes to OHS. Prior to Safe Ag Systems, record keeping was difficult to keep accurate, worker records such as health details weren’t on file and emergency management wasn’t up to date or accessible.
After a recent scare on farm, Jane states, “It did show us just how far off perfect our system was, and I felt the need to look to a program to help us. Luckily our new employee made a full recovery, but it did show us all the things we aren’t as good at as we thought.”
Sadly, Jane’s story isn’t an uncommon one. A new worker had started their 3-month trial period and on day 2 was bitten by an insect. At the time of the incident, it was believed to be a bull-ant or jack jumper bite, but 24 hours later the worker began to fall ill, went into shock and was taken to hospital. Whilst at the hospital, Jane’s team were asked a series of questions by the medical team. As they did not have health records on file, they could not provide answers in an emergency situation.
After this incident which identified the gaps in health and safety on her dairy farm, Jersey Australia nominated Jane to incorporate Safe Ag Systems on her farm.
During the implementation process Jane worked in partnership and under the guidance of Kirby Richmond-Davis, an Account Manager and Business Development Manager at Safe Ag Systems. Jane noted that the initial process of setting up the safety system was quite extensive and time consuming, however, the hard work was well worth the efforts, “the more information and details you provide during set up, means the system will perform better and you will get more out of it.”
And what about having direct access to an Account Manager that can offer one to one support? Jane recalls positive experiences, “when agriculture and life got in the way, Kirby was very understanding and the ability to move appointments has made it easy to deal with her.”
This shift to a digital safety management system, whilst it has not been instant, the results have provided the encouragement and cultural change to keep moving forward. Currently Jane is working to input her remaining data into Safe Ag Systems but is already noticing the benefits. With a comprehensive safety system in use, the team can see the difference between where the business is, where they need to be and the steps they will take to get there. Whilst some changes may seem small, these small adjustments to health and safety practices could have significant impacts in the future.
“An example of this is the location of fire extinguishers. We have the fire extinguishers. They are in date and well kept. They are located around the farms and yet we do not have a map, or process of telling our employees where they are. Our previous employee knew where they are but none of our current non-family employees would have any idea where they are.” This is just one of the many things that have come to light during the process. As the safety management system is utilised more, it is expected that other areas for improvement will come to light.
Implementing Safe Ag Systems on her dairy farm has made Jane evaluate what the business requires compared to their previous WHS/OHS practices. “We didn’t have a written procedure for emergency management. We didn’t have a map of hazards on our farm. We didn’t have a formal training register, or a list of what employees are licenced or trained on certain equipment (such as post rammer, confined spaces training for being inside the silo/milk vat)”. Safe Ag Systems offers a number of templates including policies and procedures, safety checklists, safe work procedures, and agri-specific safety inspections to ensure you are heading in the right direction for dairy safety.
With the focus on the future and gaining the most from their safety management software, Jane is expecting to benefit from a number of operational efficiency gains. Making the move from multiple systems to utilising one piece of software, everything is accessible in one location, “I really appreciate the ability to put information on procedures/ manuals/ SDS sheets and other hazards information into a single program so that anyone entering the farm can have access to it.” Once live in the system, Jane can grant workers access to important information they require to complete their tasks safely through the mobile app and desktop.
Safe Ag Systems provides the freedom and reliability of a digital safety system over the clutter of paperwork, saving you time and positively impacting your safety culture. Removing the geographical barrier Safe Ag Systems has allowed Jane to notify workers and contractors on her property about the hazards of the effluent ponds, and that swimming near the irrigation intake at the river isn’t a good idea!
Jane’s story emphasizes the success of a safety management system, such as Safe Ag Systems, when implemented correctly with the right guidance and support. Investing your time and effort upfront benefits your agribusiness with an easy to manage and accurate safety system.
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Originally published 21 May, 2021.