Having grown up on a farm, living on a farm now and with most of her work as a large animal veterinarian, FMG Young Farmer of the Year finalist Emma Dangen gets to have a lot of safety conversations.
She says effective communication with farmer-clients is key to protecting the health and welfare of veterinarians, farmers and their livestock.
Emma, the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional winner, works for a veterinary practice in Te Awamutu. Ninety-five per cent of her call outs are for dairy cattle. She completed her BVSc 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.
“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.”
Emma grew up helping out on her family farm, which rears about 700 calves a year. She now lives on a dairy farm managed by her fiancé.
“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.”
The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final will take place in the Hawke’s Bay from the 4th-6th of July.