Lift­ing the bar on health and safety

While some in the ki­wifruit in­dus­try are very aware of health and safety new and fu­ture soft­ware so­lu­tions might be able to help oth­ers come up to speed.

The Orchardist - - >>technology -

New soft­ware so­lu­tions are pop­ping up all the time to im­prove health and safety on or­chards. But a lack of cen­tral­i­sa­tion of data makes it hard for adop­tion to gain real mo­men­tum, ac­cord­ing to Brad Stevens.

He is now fruit qual­ity and in­ven­tory man­ager at Apata Group. Re­cently he com­pleted a Kel­loggs Ru­ral Lead­er­ship Course and for his project posed the ques­tion, Can we im­prove health and safety on ki­wifruit or­chards us­ing soft­ware so­lu­tions?

“Slowly the in­dus­try and or­chardists are be­com­ing more aware of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and mak­ing in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments,” he said.

Fol­low­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) and a quad death on-or­chard two years ago the New Zealand ki­wifruit in­dus­try had be­gun im­prov­ing health and safety prac­tices and there had been a pro­lif­er­a­tion of soft­ware so­lu­tions. New Zealand Ki­wifruit Grow­ers In­cor­po­rated (NZKGI) com­mis­sioned Beca to re­search the var­i­ous so­lu­tions that are avail­able and as­sess their suit­abil­ity for the ki­wifruit in­dus­try. A ta­ble com­par­ing 12 dif­fer­ent prod­ucts was pub­lished in Fe­bru­ary.

Stevens said there ap­peared to be sig­nif­i­cant dis­par­ity be­tween those man­ag­ing health and safety well and those who were not. Eurofins sought a list of risks from all NZ ki­wifruit or­chards be­fore the 2017 har­vest but on com­ple­tion of har­vest 45 per­cent of or­chards had not pro­vided this.

“As an in­dus­try with 2600 grow­ers there is a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge to reach out to them and the as­so­ci­ated busi­nesses and peo­ple and lift the bar on health and safety prac­tices.”

He com­pleted a lit­er­a­ture re­view in which he ex­plored dif­fu­sion of in­no­va­tions and the in­no­va­tion de­ci­sion process. In­di­vid­u­als can fall into one of five cat­e­gories rang­ing from be­ing in­no­va­tive, early adopters, early ma­jor­ity, late ma­jor­ity or lag­gards.With health and safety there ap­peared to be a wide range of philoso­phies rang­ing from those who were obliv­i­ous to their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to those who not only recog­nised them, be­lieved good prac­tices were more pro­duc­tive and saw it was all about staff re­turn­ing home safe from work.

He in­ter­viewed 15 stake­hold­ers from a cross sec­tion of the ki­wifruit in­dus­try, rep­re­sent­ing grow­ers, con­trac­tors and pack­houses to in­ves­ti­gate the cur­rent state of health and safety. He also ex­plored the in­dus­try’s ap­petite for adop­tion of soft­ware so­lu­tions, how these could be ben­e­fi­cial over pa­per sys­tems and per­ceived bar­ri­ers to adop­tion.

Five of the peo­ple he in­ter­viewed were al­ready us­ing a soft­ware so­lu­tion to man­age on-or­chard health and safety to var­i­ous ex­tents. Two thirds didn’t use them and none had a fully elec­tronic so­lu­tion. Rea­sons were lack of aware­ness or be­ing un­able to iden­tify a suit­able sys­tem that met their needs, and there was a view that pa­per sys­tems would re­main to some ex­tent.

Asked to de­scribe health and safety for their or­chard or busi­ness three key themes came through, but the pri­or­ity with which these were seen var­ied greatly.

“Keep­ing peo­ple safe was a key pri­or­ity, iden­ti­fy­ing and mit­i­gat­ing risks and fi­nally com­pli­ance,” he said.

“It ap­pears that peo­ple gen­er­ally grap­ple with which is more im­por­tant to them, the fun­da­men­tal keep­ing peo­ple safe or meet­ing com­pli­ance re­quire­ments to en­sure that they are pro­tected should an in­ci­dent oc­cur.”

Over­whelm­ingly ma­chin­ery was iden­ti­fied as the num­ber one risk with rab­bit holes, wires, peo­ple and chem­i­cals also iden­ti­fied.But it was gen­er­ally felt that the or­chard en­vi­ron­ment was low risk. There ap­peared to be a higher per­cep­tion of risk at har­vest time, but sev­eral com­mented that posthar­vest op­er­a­tions had some good sys­tems in place.

“Many con­trac­tors and pack­house op­er­a­tors felt that it was dif­fi­cult to get grow­ers to buy into im­proved health and safety sug­ges­tions due to the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of their busi­ness and a fear that grow­ers may change providers if some­thing was pushed on them,” he said.

“There was a con­cern that many peo­ple were not tak­ing health and safety se­ri­ously and that en­sur­ing that pro­cesses were fol­lowed was a chal­lenge.”

The re­spon­dents were asked to iden­tify with one of the five groups from in­no­va­tor through to lag­gards.

“Most in­ter­vie­wees clas­si­fied them­selves be­ing in­no­va­tors or be­ing early adopters at 67 per­cent,” he said.

Asked why they gave rea­sons such as “al­ways strive to be at the front”, “proac­tive” and “don’t hes­i­tate to give it a go”.They were then asked to rank on a scale of one to 10 health and safety for their or­chard or busi­ness.

“Re­sponses ranged from four to nine with an av­er­age rat­ing of seven,” he said.

“With­out ex­cep­tion all re­sponses ac­knowl­edged that they still had some work to do. In­ter­vie­wees felt that they were mak­ing a gen­uine ef­fort and that health and safety had be­come more of a pri­or­ity re­cently.”

All in­ter­vie­wees iden­ti­fied them­selves as hav­ing bet­ter health and safety sys­tems in their own or­chard or busi­ness than that of the gen­eral in­dus­try. Com­mon themes were “grow­ers have not got to grips with this yet” and a view they were too re­liant on post-har­vest. There were chal­lenges with the older gen­er­a­tion get­ting them to break away from the “she’ll be right” men­tal­ity.

Many said the main rea­son for lack of adop­tion was they had not found a suit­able sys­tem or a lack of aware­ness of the soft­ware so­lu­tions avail­able.

“There was a clear view that KGI and posthar­vest op­er­a­tors were the best av­enues to im­prove aware­ness of soft­ware so­lu­tions to grow­ers.”

Asked about the most im­por­tant as­pects of a health and safety sys­tem for their or­chard they ranked be­ing easy to use. Iden­ti­fy­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing risks was also im­por­tant as was meet­ing com­pli­ance re­quire­ments.

They be­lieved elec­tronic sys­tems were more ac­ces­si­ble to those who needed ac­cess which would lead to im­proved re­port­ing and com­pli­ance, and live data would al­low no­ti­fi­ca­tion of en­try and exit. They saw the av­er­age age of grow­ers as the most sig­nif­i­cant bar­rier to adop­tion, closely fol­lowed by the “she’ll be right” cul­ture and tech­ni­cal abil­ity. Cell­phone cov­er­age was con­sid­ered a bar­rier despite many tech­nol­ogy so­lu­tions claim­ing to have on­line / off­line ca­pa­bil­ity.

All in­ter­vie­wees but one could see the ben­e­fits of a cen­tralised so­lu­tion and were sup­port­ive as they felt it would make it eas­ier for ev­ery­one and re­duce du­pli­ca­tion.

“One in­ter­vie­wee who has built their own elec­tronic sys­tem went as far as say­ing that they would ditch their own sys­tem if the right in­dus­try so­lu­tion was avail­able and this ben­e­fited the in­dus­try.”

They would rather have a sin­gle com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem, but would sac­ri­fice this over adopt­ing best of breed sys­tems. Just 20 per­cent felt so long as a sin­gle com­pre­hen­sive sys­tem met min­i­mum com­pli­ance needs they didn’t need the best avail­able.

Asked if they would have buy-in for use of an elec­tronic health and safety so­lu­tion from staff and/or con­trac­tors 87 per­cent said there would be, but work would be re­quired. Some felt con­trac­tors would be more dif­fi­cult and they would need to sell the rea­sons for the change. The re­main­ing 13 per­cent felt there would be some re­bel­lion as con­trac­tors tended to be lax.

A lit­tle over half be­lieved that an elec­tronic health and safety sys­tem would im­prove the man­age­ment of sys­tems and saw this as one of the pri­mary rea­sons for adopt­ing it. The re­main­der didn’t con­sider it would im­prove the sta­tus quo. Their re­ac­tions ranged from feel­ing they were so small that they were in­ti­mately aware any­way, to con­cerns around adop­tion and a reliance on peo­ple to fol­low the process be­ing lit­tle dif­fer­ent to now.

There were 67 per­cent who be­lieved that it would re­duce ad­min­is­tra­tion, while some said there was lit­tle time spent on ad­min­is­ter­ing health and safety now, so any re­duc­tions were not sig­nif­i­cant.

Man­ag­ing and in­ter­act­ing with vis­i­tors and/or con­trac­tors was a pri­mary driver.

“There was of­ten an ac­knowl­edge­ment that con­trac­tors and vis­i­tors have gone un­der the radar with poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion and there was an aware­ness that this was an area that needed to be im­proved,” he said.

“It ap­pears that we are only just mov­ing into the crit­i­cal phase where the early adopters are start­ing to see the fruits of the in­no­va­tors.”

All those who had an elec­tronic sys­tem said this had im­proved this area of their busi­ness.

A lit­tle over half felt elec­tronic health and safety sys­tems would or have im­proved health and safety due to an im­proved aware­ness or sim­ply lift­ing the bar. The re­main­der felt there was lit­tle ef­fect due to the ex­pe­ri­ence of their staff, elec­tronic sys­tems be­ing no more than a tool and cul­ture and com­pli­ance be­ing the driv­ers rather than elec­tronic sys­tems.

When asked how much they would be pre­pared to pay per year for an elec­tronic health and safety so­lu­tion some said they would need to do a cost ben­e­fit anal­y­sis while oth­ers were pre­pared to pay up to sev­eral thou­sand dol­lars depend­ing on the size of their busi­ness.

Stevens said it was con­cern­ing that sev­eral con­trac­tors and pack­house op­er­a­tors felt they could not push grow­ers too hard to im­prove health and safety is­sues iden­ti­fied due to the com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the in­dus­try.

“This clearly demon­strates that the in­dus­try health and safety cul­ture has some way to go,” he said.

It was sug­gested that younger peo­ple were more aware of ex­pec­ta­tions and ways to man­age health and safety. If grow­ers them­selves were fo­cused achiev­ing buy-in, cul­ture change could be lead from the top.

“Po­ten­tial adopters need to be con­vinced that soft­ware so­lu­tions will make their life eas­ier and give them peace of mind,” he said.

“They need to have a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence and need the prod­uct to be dumbed down to its sim­plest level, they need to be able to give it a go and find ways that it can work for them and fi­nally they need to get pos­i­tive feed­back from all stake­hold­ers. It ap­pears that we are only just mov­ing into the crit­i­cal phase where the early adopters are start­ing to see the fruits of the in­no­va­tors.” It was crit­i­cal that the in­dus­try’s health and safety prac­tices con­tin­ued to evolve to sup­port the in­dus­try’s on­go­ing prof­itabil­ity and growth. A pos­i­tive health and safety cul­ture needed to go hand and hand with any soft­ware so­lu­tion for it to be suc­cess­ful. And the cul­ture needed to be led by ex­am­ple and given reg­u­lar re­in­force­ment so that in­stead of work­ers re­act­ing to safety in­ci­dents, they prac­tice safety be­cause they want to do it, then be­come in­ter­de­pen­dent so ev­ery em­ployee is look­ing out for oth­ers.

“This work will need to be led from in­dus­try groups such as Ze­spri and NZKGI and will need to be well struc­tured and mul­ti­fac­eted to be most ef­fec­tive.”

Sev­eral in­ter­vie­wees were work­ing very closely with the de­vel­op­ers of so­lu­tions to fur­ther de­velop them to meet their needs and had ne­go­ti­ated a “deal”, sup­port­ing the con­cept that farm­ers and re­searchers can col­lab­o­rate over time for im­proved out­comes.

“There is a view that no sin­gle so­lu­tion can meet ev­ery­one’s needs, and stake­hold­ers should be free to choose, but that shar­ing would re­duce du­pli­ca­tion and re­sult in bet­ter safety out­comes.

“Sys­tems need to be cost ef­fec­tive, but cost can be bal­anced against ease of use, meet­ing com­pli­ance and even con­sid­ered an in­sur­ance pol­icy,” he said.

“Early adopters need to be sup­ported through the crit­i­cal phase.”

“Man­ag­ing and in­ter­act­ing with vis­i­tors and/or con­trac­tors was a pri­mary driver.”

Brad Stevens – a wide range of philoso­phies amongst ki­wifruit in­dus­try play­ers.

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