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04Dec

Championing workplace health and safety

Ruralco’s commitment to the health and safety of its staff, members and suppliers was applauded as the co-operative was named winner of the ACC Champion Workplace Safety category at the prestigious 2019 Westpac Champion Business Awards.

Held on 17th September at Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, the awards are widely recognised as one of New Zealand’s largest and most respected business honours. The Westpac Champion Business Awards, celebrates excellence, innovation, growth and the successes of Canterbury businesses across all aspects of business.

Accepting the award on behalf of Ruralco, Group CEO Rob Sharkie was delighted, “this award cements the hard work we have undertaken, and it puts Ruralco with a group of businesses who also take health and safety seriously. The process of striving to achieve this award has given us confidence in how our systems function. This is recognition our people are doing the right thing” said Rob.

The ACC Champion Workplace Safety Award is the category which honours businesses which demonstrate excellence in health and safety systems and procedures. These businesses create a platform for health and safety to be owned by all who engage with them, helping create a positive health and safety culture.

Achieving a positive health and safety culture takes commitment from all levels of the business. Beginning with the Board’s approach, through management and all staff, having enthusiasm and acknowledging that health and safety best practice is the only practice, enables Ruralco to ensure that staff, suppliers and members who have engaged at a store level or in any part of the business, will be able to conduct their business safely.

In winning the award the co-operative was acknowledged for its many best practices, both internally and externally, through co-operative conducts audits, it’s training, reporting scorecards, providing continuous updates and offering wellness programmes.

Ruralco’s work in helping members develop best practice for their farms, occurs through providing training, education and information specifically appropriate to health and safety on farm. Ruralco expressly took the lead on offering these training programmes for farmers, realising that a specific health and safety system for identifying, recording, and reporting would need to become everyday practice, not just within the co-operative but for its shareholders.

Existing health and safety courses had been available within New Zealand but on review of these many were too complicated for farmers to adapt to their properties and were better suited to the construction industry. One of the ways the co-operative is helping build safer systems and develop skills within the agriculture sector is by offering farmer specific training.

Over several years Ruralco, along with supplier Compliance Partners, have helped provide access to, and delivered, courses on health and safety management. Lead by Jane Fowles and her team from Compliance Partners, this collaboration has seen approximately 60 members attend health and safety management. In addition to these, members have attended courses on working at heights, approved/certified handler courses and for newcomers to the dairy industry – Calving 101 – which is designed to help ensure physical and mental wellness around calving time. For Ruralco, working together with a supplier in this way combine knowledge, presentation and commitment to our co-operative business and community.

“We are passionate about our people across all aspects of our business; our staff, members and suppliers. Our focus for health and safety is on ensuring we share knowledge. Whether that’s internally, with members on farm, or by talking with our suppliers.” said Rob.

Health and safety best practices have become normal with staff. It is now a part of the way Ruralco does business every day. Peter Jacob, Ruralco’s Compliance Manager said “I have tried to keep health and safety as simple and as practical as possible. When initiating new procedures, I give the reasons and rationale as to why changes or different actions needs to be taken, so that staff understand the bigger picture, and how their roles and actions affect others.”

Peter’s hard work and dedication has paid off. His efforts in ensuring his colleagues get home safely to their families each day meant that he was thrilled when Ruralco won the award. He said “it was very humbling. By keeping health and safety at the forefront of our business we send a reliable message about the importance of best practice.” He continued “I think that the key to a great health and safety culture is keeping it simple.”

As part of Ruralco’s commitment to its staff’s health, safety and wellbeing, earlier this year staff established a Wellness Committee and set out a calendar of events to encourage staff members to get involved and engaged with each other and the community. Events range from supporting Mowvember, to walking challenges, healthy eating, health and wellness testing, providing fruit on the staff room table, encouraging staff to enter sports teams, to sponsoring and promoting participation at the Ruralco Longbeach Coastal Challenge.

Sarah Green, Ruralco’s Group Manager People and Capability said “all of the wellness programmes we offer are part of building a great team who function well as individuals and as a collective. Part of being a responsible employer and engaging best practice, is also ensuring that our mental health is well supported. We are committed to educating our staff on Mental Health using industry experts to deliver workshops and seminars for our staff. This has included holding seminars with Michael Hempseed on Mental Health and Suicide prevention which were so popular, Michael has recently returned to host two more sessions.”

Ruralco is 100% committed to the wellbeing its staff, members, suppliers and the wider rural community. Through the ACC Workplace Safety Champion award there is recognition that Ruralco staff are walking the talk. Rob said “with such a good health and safety record, and now with this recognition, we are focusing on keeping the ‘health’ in health and safety. We recognise that people are our main asset. Our positive culture ensures our staff feel comfortable to speak up, to contribute and to lead by example. Our people deliver exceptional customer service and having safe, healthy and happy individuals is absolutely integral to how we go about our business at Ruralco day to day.”

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