Advising on health and safety in orchards and vineyards is a far cry from working in Australian mines for Bryan Bird.
He is the new health and safety manager for Seasonal Solutions Co-op (SSCO), and started his new role on April 1.
“It is a good April Fool’s joke,” Mr Bird said.
He spent 15 years in Australia working as a health and safety adviser in mining and oil and gas, and on big infrastructure projects, before moving to Lawrence to run his own consultancy for three years.
Now, his role with SSCO includes advising and overseeing orchard and vineyard owners and managers about their risk management and health and safety compliance programmes for their staff on properties from Marlborough to Central Otago.
SSCO is the biggest recognised seasonal employer (RSE) in the country, and is responsible for about between 1400 and 1800 employees.
His latest project involves developing draft training and certification guidelines for supervisors and managers who wish to train or upskill RSE workers to use a range of plant and equipment, including tractor driving or operating spray units, in a safe and compliant environment.
“We want to upskill the RSE workers to high standards,” he said.
“It is not new to the industry but new to us.
“We need to have a strong, robust safety culture that reinforces the health and safety message.
“It is good for the growers and good for the workers.”
Mr Bird said a manager or owner’s health and safety obligations also included their workers’ welfare, health and fitness to work.
“They have got a responsibility to find out why someone has not showed up for work.”
SSCO employs several advocates who provide pastoral care for the RSE workers, including picking them up or seeing them off at the airport, helping them with banking, sorting out doctors and other welfare issues, and even handing out pay slips and making sure they have a hot meal and groceries in their accommodation if they have arrived straight from the airport.
He said although horticulture was a low-risk industry, workers to tend to experience sprain and back injuries and ladder falls.
“It tends to be very tough on the body in orchards and vineyards, and it is important to get workers’ fitness up to speed, such as warm-up exercises in the morning.”