Working in the agri-nutrient sector, Calvin Ball says he has seen a significant change in farmers’ attitudes to health and safety in recent years.
Calvin, the Northern 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year, grew up on a Northland dairy farm, studied agriscience at Massey and began his career with an agri-nutrient company in 2013. After his OE in London, he returned to the company and is now Northern North Island Regional Sales Manager, heading a team of nutrient specialists.
“Going out on farms, I have seen farmers’ attitudes change significantly since 2013,” he says. “Back then, many could be pretty dismissive in their response to conversations about health and safety, but now they are much more on board with the requirements and attitudes are very different.”
For Calvin, a strong awareness around farmers managing fatigue and the importance of looking after their mental health and wellbeing and that of their people is a critical part of any health and safety plan.
“I’m a strong advocate of being aware and noticing if someone doesn’t seem well. I try to encourage them to talk and to seek help.”
Calvin is also a volunteer with Surfing for Farmers in Whangarei. The voluntary organisation started in Gisborne and has spread countrywide.
“We help organise it. All the gear is provided, and farmers come along and get free lessons. It gets them off farm and provides the opportunity to learn something new and to catch up with other farmers. We’ve had 100-150 farmers in the water – and we have a barbecue afterwards.”
Calvin grew up as one of five children. Like many farm kids, they worked alongside their parents on the farm, learning how to do jobs safely. His father would always supervise them until he was confident they could do a task safely on their own. He cites driving farm vehicles or operating machinery as one example of this.
“There would be informal conversations about safety before people started a job,” he says.
“For example, a warning to be careful around a particular paddock because there was a bull in with the cows or letting us know there was machinery operating in a certain area and to keep well clear.”
Calvin’s father has significant hearing loss from working with loud machinery and farm vehicles without hearing protection. As a result, there were always hard and fast rules about hearing and eye protection on their farm.
“That’s also very important,” says Calvin. “You may not realise the damage you are doing because hearing loss is incremental over time and it’s important to make sure you, your workers and family are protected from hearing damage. I’ve seen the impact it’s had on my father, especially in social situations, and it is totally avoidable.”