6 min read


Is succession planning a dirty word when it comes to health and safety

Succession planning is often considered a sensitive topic, and yes we know that is for a good reason. However, this article is going to address why succession planning isn’t a dirty word and how it can play a positive role in your workplace health and safety.

What is succession planning?

In case you haven’t heard of the term ‘succession planning’ or ‘transition planning’ before, it’s basically a plan which determines how your farming business will continue into the future. This often covers uncomfortable topics such as retirement, possible illness or injury, reducing your involvement on farm, legacy, divorce and even death. Whilst it can be a difficult conversation to start, it is beneficial to everyone involved to have a clear understanding.

Because it seems like such a sensitive issue, succession planning can often be associated with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. This can be attributed to topics such as finance and responsibilities, making decisions resulting in a feeling of pressure, both for those creating the plan and those who are inheriting it. You may even find yourself deliberately not thinking about it. If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t just go away.

When it involves family, you can understand why succession planning has become a taboo topic, with complex emotions causing stress and panic, but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Some farmers are facing a hard decision, deciding which child or children inherits the family farm. Whilst on the other hand, there are farmers who do not have another generation ready to take on the family business.

Succession planning should bring everyone involved in the farming business together to communicate their goals and aspirations. You should discuss economic advantages and disadvantages, as well as other obligations. Clear communication and planning now can help you avoid conflicts and prevent problems from emerging later. Planning for a smooth transition not only helps incoming and outgoing generations, but it can also give piece of mind to farm workers.

David-Brown - Client

You’re probably still wondering what does this all have to do with health and safety?

With all this talk on the future and the continuation of your farming business, wouldn’t you want to implement good health and safety practices now to protect the future? We spoke with David Brown of Glendon Vineyards in Padthaway, South Australia, who is doing just that.

Glendon Vineyards is a diverse family-owned business that includes a viticulture and wine sales business, prime lamb and merino enterprise as well as an EU accredited Poll Hereford enterprise and broadacre crop productions.

With 8 full time employees, David notes that being exposed to seasonal fluctuations and cyclical commodity prices are always a driving factor that you need to have a plan for. With a focus on the long-term approach, David has developed plans that cover five and 10 years, respectively. What does this planning have to do with the topic at hand? David’s advice, “succession planning is no different, time and a degree of flexibility helps to facilitate a good outcome.” If you are planning ahead for the viability of your business succession planning is just another step.

We understand planning for what lies ahead can be daunting, no one has a crystal ball. We’ve heard the infomercials, but it’s true, wouldn’t you rest easier knowing your loved ones were taken care of? You don’t have to know all the answers, just take it step by step, and as David mentions find yourself advisors and consultants you trust. You are not alone in this process. David’s advice for those at the begin of their succession planning journey,

“We have been fortunate to have had the help of some great advisors and consultants over a long period of time.  For anyone just starting to plan for the future it is important to get good, trustworthy advice. This process never ends and we can learn from the people around us.”

Who can help with succession planning? Don’t let your anxiety cause a barrier. There are a range of trained professionals who you can lean on for advice. These individuals often range from your agricultural consultant, lawyers, financial planners and accountants.succession planning - paperwork

We asked David the all-important question, what simple changes were his team implementing now to encourage a safer workplace that they will continue into the future;

“We have recently updated our Work, Health and Safety Platform to Safe Ag Systems.  This has taken our paper-based manual to a dynamic safety platform accessible to each of our employees from their mobile. We have been extremely well supported by the Safe Ag Systems team with different members specialising in different aspects of Work, Health and Safety.”

At Safe Ag Systems, we believe that health and safety contribute to your succession planning and business continuation goals. Health and safety often requires a cultural change. As we know about change, it doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes commitment and time. When we asked David about the role of health and safety in his planning, he was only too happy to share.

“It is vitally important in our family business to operate in a responsible and ethical manner, and this is the culture we are encouraging. Health and safety of our people is a core element of this culture and if we encourage and continually improve our work practices it becomes habit and instilled within our team.”

Why not take your first step towards succession planning, start the conversation about what you could be doing for your workplace health and safety now so that it is safeguarded for future farming families. On that note, we’ll leave you with David’s final (and most important) quote of this whole article… “Make farm safety a priority, people are our most important resource.”

Risk Assessment - RA - Guest

Disclaimer: Content on this website may be of relevance to users outside of Australia, but content links and examples are specific to Australia. Please check with your local authority for your country and industry requirements.

Originally published 16 July, 2021.

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