Having grown up on a farm, living on a farm now and with most of her work as a vet done on dairy farms Young Farmer of the Year grand finalist Emma Dangen gets to have a lot of safety conversations.
Dangen, the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional winner, works for a veterinary practice in Te Awamutu, where 95% of her calls are to dairy cattle. She completed her studies at Massey University last year and says there was a strong focus on safety during university placements.
“There were formal processes in place around health and safety and the clear message from our tutors was ‘If it isn’t safe, don’t do it’,” she says.
“I grew up on a farm and I live on a farm but you have a different perspective when you are on a farm as a visitor contracted to do a job.
“As a vet I find farmers will usually let me know when I arrive if an animal is a bit lively or agitated.
“Sometimes, however, I may deal with a farm worker who may not necessarily know that information, which illustrates the importance of ongoing safety conversations and passing on information.
“Generally, I’ll turn up and assess the situation and have a conversation with the farmer to decide on the safest approach.
“It might be that I need to use a halter or a head bale or the animal needs to be sedated.
“You need to identify and record the risks on your farm but you don’t have to whip out a checklist and follow it.
“For me, the most important thing is about communication, the kind of conversations I have with farmers on a daily basis and which I had with my father while growing up.”
Dangen grew up helping on her family farm, which rears about 700 calves a year. She now lives on a dairy farm managed by her fiance.
“My father has always been very safety conscious,” she says.
“He had worked in sawmills and the forestry industry in the past and had a few close calls so he was very aware around risks.
“We didn’t have staff and we didn’t have stuff written down back then but he made sure we were trained and competent before we were allowed to do any jobs or use any equipment.
“There was always a conversation about safety first too. It wasn’t formal, just casual everyday conversation about the risks. Things like ‘watch out for that’ or ‘hey, let’s do it this way instead’.
“Just making those kinds of ongoing safety conversations as business as usual is what makes farms safer. Good health and safety isn’t about lots of paperwork although there will be plenty of paperwork to deal with if someone does have an accident. Good health and safety is simply good business practice.”