Friday, December 8, 2023

YFOTY: Formalising health and safety processes at Eilean Donan

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This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists in the 2019 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition. 
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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 managing a dairy farming to veterinary practice.

Brothers Matt and Joe McRae are in the process of formalising the health and safety processes for their family farm, Eilean Donan, in the Redan Valley in Southland and they’re finding they’ve already been doing a lot of what is required. 

“For instance, things like wearing helmets on the farm bikes, making sure vehicles and machinery are well maintained and not taking vehicles onto certain steep terrain have always been part of our approach,” Matt, the 2019 Otago/Southland FMG Young Farmer of the Year, says.

“But now we’re getting those things formalised in farm rules, training and maintenance records and marked on our hazard map. 

“We are also about to take on a full-time member of staff. Employing someone makes things a little more complex so having those processes in place will be very useful.”

Eilean Donan has been in the McRae family for 111 years. Today it extends to 970ha of interconnected blocks of flat to rolling land with 6500 ewes, 2000 hoggets, 300 dairy grazer calves and 120 beef-cross steers. 

Matt and Joe found working from templates – such as those in WorkSafe’s Keep Safe, Keep Farming toolkit – was the best way to start their health and safety plan. 

“Once you have those tools, it’s pretty straightforward,” Matt says. 

“We’ve used FarmIQ for the hazard map and identified our risks, like steep slopes, bridges and offal pits.

“One of our risks and probably the biggest change for us on-farm is that public roads that run through the farm are getting much busier. We need to put out cones and signs to give drivers plenty of warning when we are shifting stock across the roads.”

Matt says one of the key things is to never take anything for granted.

“We’re drawing up the induction plan for our new staff member. Even though he is experienced in farming we will be familiarising him with the risks on our farm and making sure he is trained and competent with our vehicles and equipment and in the way we expect things to be done.

“That works both ways, too, because he is currently employed on a block we have just leased. He knows that land much better than we do so we’ll be working with him to help us to develop that part of the hazard map.”

Matt and Joe take the same approach when contractors are coming on-farm. 

“A lot of them have been doing work here for a long time and are very familiar with the farm but I make sure they know if anything has changed or there are any new risks,” Matt says.

“We don’t have mobile phone coverage here so Joe and I use two-way radios to keep in touch. A lot of our contractors have them too. I touch base with the contractor beforehand and they know to get in touch when they arrive on-farm and we’ll go through what they’re doing and anything they need to know or I need to know about that work.”

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final is in Hawke’s Bay, July 4-6.

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