Getting farmers to comply with health and safety regulations was a challenge that one HR consultant took head-on.
Mardi Tero CPHR Director, Mardi Tero Consulting Pty Ltd
Mardi Tero had been thinking about completing her HR certification for some time. But when her brother beat her to the punch, she was spurred to action.
Beyond the sibling rivalry, Tero says she was motivated to reinforce her credibility not only with clients but also with her peers and mentees.
“I’ve been consulting with AHRI for five years now as a trainer and assessor, so I thought it was important to demonstrate leadership to aspiring HR managers whom I’m training. And from a business perspective, for professional credibility, to have my experience supported.”
Of the four pathways to HR certification, Tero chose the Senior Leaders Pathway for HR professionals with 10 or more years’ generalist HR experience and at least five years’ experience in a senior leadership or management role. It’s based around a retrospective case study that outlines an organisational capability initiative, change or solution.
Tero’s project involved the development and implementation of an integrated safety system for a large family-owned pastoral and grazing company, AJ and PA McBride Ltd.
“In terms of workplace health and safety, agriculture is one of the highest-risk industries, but probably the least compliant,” says Tero. “I thought WH&S was very quantifiable in terms of improvement.”
But as Tero quickly learned, although the managers were good with livestock and farming, administration and WH&S were not their strengths.
Since completing the certification, Tero’s most tangible short-term outcome has been that she’s now delivering the AHRI Practising Certification Program.
“I now have an APC workshop student cohort and a distance cohort, as well as delivering the Certificate IV in HR for AHRI,” she says.
Moreover, certification helps her, and her business, stand out from the pack.
“There are a lot of HR consultants out there, and certification recognises the areas of expertise and ability of HR practitioners to be strategic influencers and support business strategy.”
Nathan Wessling Chief Financial OfficerAJ & PA McBride Ltd
When Tero started working with one of Australia’s largest wool producers she had little experience in the agricultural sector.
“Almost immediately after she came on board, one of our properties triggered a SafeWork SA audit based on the amount of worker’s compensation claims,” says Nathan Wessling, AJ & PA McBride CFO and Tero’s sponsor for the Senior Leaders Pathway to HR certification.
This event, however, was used to the advantage of the pastoral and grazing company.
“She went down to one of the remote properties, became immersed in the property and learnt all of the processes, so she understood straight away what the issues were and how to fix them,” says Wessling.
One of the many things Tero says she discovered was that “farmers have very little interest in paperwork”. Her WH&S solution took that into account by building safety messages into regular toolbox meetings.
“Our toolbox meetings happen as part of the normal operations of the property – they’re where we work out what tasks need to be done for the rest of the week,” says Wessling.
“Rather than just giving staff a whole heap of documentation to read about WH&S, safety discussions are part of our toolbox meetings.
“For example, we’ve just done a discussion on snake bites because we’re going into summer.”
Wessling says the chats are structured around a discussion paper which Tero has provided.
“Understanding the target audience was one of the main things. People who work in agriculture often aren’t tertiary educated,” he says. “There’s a fine line between having enough information to comply with our statutory requirements, and making it easy to access and use.”
Another factor behind the project’s success was the way it empowered staff.
“With Mardi’s encouragement, we signed up most of our managers to complete certificates in management or OHS,” he says. “The managers were then able to identify things themselves, rather than Mardi imposing the system upon them.”
Since that first audit, AJ & PA McBride has achieved a 30 per cent increase in compliance, all staff are trained in first aid and chemical safety, and all managers have completed their Cert IV in OHS.
“The main difference is that we comply with legislation, and I wouldn’t have been able to say that, hand on heart, beforehand,” says Wessling. “We’ve also had a reduction in workplace injuries, and reporting of them is getting better too.”
Learn how to bring about organisational change with AHRI Practising Certification Program. January 2018 intake enrolments open 15 October 2017.