New farm safety initiative aims to empower women to effect change

A new farm safety initiative aims to rally rural women to help save injuries and lives on New Zealand farms.

Action group Safer Farms has partnered with Australian woman Alex Thomas to bring the #PlantASeedForSafety Project to New Zealand.

The project profiles women from all parts of rural industries and communities who are making positive and practical improvements to the health, safety and wellbeing of those around them.

With the message "save a life, listen to your wife", it aims to raise the voices of rural women and boost their confidence in their ability to influence change and to inspire others to make safer, healthier choices.

Women are able to submit their stories to be uploaded to the #PlantASeedForSafety website, where visitors can find positive and practical solutions to improving health, safety and wellbeing on the farm and in communities.

"Farm safety encompasses more than just the safe handling of chemicals or animals, or safety on quad bikes or tractors - it's also about having strategies to deal with stress and having the right conversations to ensure the safety of children, or other more vulnerable men and women on the farm and in the community," said Safer Farms general manager Tony Watson.

"If someone has found a better, safer way of doing something on the farm or in their community, that's the story the project aims to tell."

Agriculture records the second highest number of deaths in all industries in New Zealand, with 23 people killed in work related incidents in the year to March.

Thomas said it is important the issue of farm safety is talked about openly.

"Everybody knows someone who's been hurt at work in rural industries, and yet the current focus on paperwork and 'box-ticking' is distracting us from talking about the sorts of things we do on a day to day basis that prevent people from getting hurt.

"We need to talk much, much less about paperwork and much, much more about the things that could actually save a life."

Thomas started the project as a legacy to her mum, dad, their industry and the rural way of life.

"As a part-time carer for my father who is now permanently disabled as a result of his life's work in agriculture, the #PlantASeedForSafety Project was born from the acknowledgement that no amount of safety paperwork would have influenced him to make safer, healthier choices.

"Thirty years ago nobody wore seatbelts, and today we do it without even thinking about it. 

"By raising the voices of rural women and increasing their confidence in their ability to influence change, I believe we can inspire more people to make safer, healthier choices."

Safer Farms health and safety advocate Harriet Bremner is among women helping to promote the initiative.

"I've had to live through the tragedy of losing a loved one in a farming accident," said Bremner.

"I know first-hand how much women care about the people they love staying safe while they work. We want to change the stigma of putting health and safety in a box when it should be about putting people first and keeping the ones you love alive."

 Farm safety campaigner Harriet Bremner is helping to promote the initiative.
Farm safety campaigner Harriet Bremner is helping to promote the initiative. Photo credit: Supplied

Bremner also hoped to change the 'she'll be right' and 'it'll never happen to me' attitudes many Kiwi farmers currently have.

"An accident or fatality can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of how experienced they are. This is about planting a seed for safety, to get people home to their families at the end of every day.

"Rural women are the experts in their partners, their businesses and their communities, and they are often the closest other person in proximity to the work."

The project has industry wide support from agricultural organisations across the country, including Rural Women NZ, WorkSafe, Dairy Women's Network, the Rural Support Trust, Farm Source, Pamu and LIC .