There are two memorial sites on one of the Pāmu West Coast farms Jack Raharuhi oversees as business manager. They remember workers who lost their lives in accidents there in 2010 and 2015.
For Raharuhi, who has worked in the Pāmu business for 16 years, the tragedies are etched in his mind. In 2010, he was a young dairy assistant but the lessons he took from them have shaped his approach as he progressed in his career, to become a manager committed to building a culture of care around health, safety and wellbeing and working to ensure that flows through his entire team.
Raharuhi welcomed the Half Arsed Stops Here campaign and Farm Without Harm strategy to help prevent injuries and fatalities resulting from accidents on New Zealand farms.
“When the first fatal accident happened, I was a teenager and the person who passed away was aged 17 and a close friend of mine,” Raharuhi said. “I was young and playful, I’d thought I was bullet-proof, but that is where my passion for health and safety began.
“As I moved into farm manager roles, I took that with me. I picked up very quickly on the importance of the links between a good health and safety culture and an overall good culture. For a lot of people, health and safety is about the helmets, the high viz and compliance but the pastoral care is critical.
“When you grow maturity into a workplace culture, it becomes more caring. Showing care for your people and building caring relationships across your team – for me that is the golden nugget that will stop serious accidents happening on farms.
“Those are the messages of the Half Arsed Stops Here campaign – around talking to one another to find and share the solutions that work best for you, and rejecting complacency and the things and attitudes that put you or those around you at risk.”
In 2015, a second fatal accident occurred on the same farm. Like the 2010 accident, it involved a quad bike rolling.
“By that time, I was manager on the farm next door,” said Raharuhi. “The accidents had a massive impact that has been long term, for the people involved, the wider workforce and the company. We still have people working here who were at work on those days and it is a difficult subject for them.
“They were huge losses. You go through dark days and you do feel doubt. You think, ‘Is there anything I could have done or said, was there anything in my power to stop this happening?’”
Following the 2015 tragedy, Pāmu replaced its fleet of quad bikes with side-by-sides with roll-over protection.
“Everyone now also has a radio and a personal locator beacon on a holster, so if they can’t get to a phone or are trapped they can raise the alarm,” said Raharuhi.
Raharuhi, who is now 31, was the 2017 winner of the Dairy Manager of the Year title for the West Coast Top of the South, and Ahuwhenua Young Māori Farmer of the Year in 2016. The memorials remain a focal point of Pāmu’s West Coast farms.
“On the anniversaries of those days, when the accidents happen, we bring all our teams together at the memorial sites. We have a barbecue and we remember our colleagues and we talk about how this can happen.
“It may be that you haven’t chosen the right vehicle for the job, or come to work in the best state of mind or health or haven’t checked if the bike has been serviced. It may be that you aren’t taking conditions into account, like wet ground or heavy rain.
“We will always have new people and entry level people so it’s about helping them to understand there is high risk to this business and it is everyone’s job to take responsibility, to look out for yourself and for one another.
The Half Arsed Stops Here campaign includes a pledge industry members are encouraged to sign up to, committing to become active drivers of change and to make health, safety and wellbeing a genuine priority across the sector.
The campaign co-ordinates with a new Farming Without Harm strategy developed by the Agricultural Leaders Health and Action Group (Safer Farms), the organisation dedicated to leading and inspiring a safer farm culture throughout NZ. For more details, see www.saferfarms.co.nz.