AN APP designed by Neriah Broughton for use on farms owned by the OB Group in Rangitikei has won a national prize.
Her app took the prize for best health and safety initiative from a small business at the New Zealand Workplace Health & Safety Awards in Auckland on May 25.
It's been in use on Regent's Park Farm and others in the OB Group for about the last six months. It's still being developed and Mrs Broughton has been told it could have wider industry use.
Regent's Park Farm is about 500ha at coastal Santoft, near Bulls, with a herd of 1000 cows. It's managed by Mrs Broughton's husband Mark, with five to seven other staff.
Most are young and have smartphones they love to use. They have a weekly health and safety meeting.
Dairy farms are full of hazards, co-owner Stuart Taylor said. When staff see one on the farm they photograph it and fill in an online form that records the date and site using GPS. Managers get the problem sorted, and can even sign it off online.
Everything recorded is archived regularly, also online.
"It takes two minutes. There's no paper needed. We hate paper," farm manager Mark Broughton said.
A quick look at the records confirms farming does have dangers. One staff member was knocked down while drafting a cow. Another fell off a bike. Another records a culvert where sand has washed out at a crossing.
The app also records "near hits" - what used to be called near misses - and injuries that result from accidents.
Staff without smartphones can record hazards with a tablet at the cowshed, or on one of two computers.
"Young people love their phones and love taking photos. It just encourages them to do what they enjoy doing and get home safe."
Mrs Broughton is the farm's paid health and safety adviser. She brings a background in administration, IT and broadcasting from her time in Zimbabwe. She's now thinking of starting her own business, probably in health and safety.
Her freedom to pursue her own work while the mother of three young children is down to the OB Group's employment policy, Mr Taylor said.
Staff are paid an hourly rate and keep their work hours down to 45 to 50 a week. At calving when it's really busy, one or two extras are hired, and some live off-site.
They work 5:2 or 4:3 rosters, depending on what suits them.
"I'm trying to do a flexi-time thing, so if they have a sports day at school they can go - within reason.
"It's trying to keep people fit and well, and that doesn't mean really tired all the time."
The policy doesn't cost more, and ensures good staff. It's worthwhile, even in a time of low milk payouts. Good staff are more proactive, do less damage and have better ideas.
"The low milk price impacts quite a bit but one thing we don't cut is people, because if you don't have good people there's no way you can survive a dairy downturn," Mr Taylor said.
OB Group policy is also to train all staff to understand everything that happens on farm, and to extend their interests.
"Everyone is brought up to the same level. If I'm not there the trainee farm manager will know exactly what's going on. If he's not there the senior farm assistant could run the farm."
The Broughtons have worked together on three other dairy farms, and both said the policy has been good for them.
"(Mark) is a different person. He has got more time for us, and because he has more time for us I've got more time for me," Mrs Broughton said.
Her husband said he was blown away when he started at the farm two years ago.
"It's a business that manages people, cows and assets."