Getting to the heart of safety
A father and daughter were driving along the Eyre Highway in South Australia, somewhere between Whyalla and Port Augusta, when they struck up a conversation about the state of health and safety in rural industries. Alex Thomas had been working as a health and safety consultant in the mining industry and her father, Chris, had spent decades on the land before making the move to a less weather-dependent career in mining.
After caring for her dad through a number of farm-related illnesses, Alex had decided that more needed to be done for people working in agriculture.
Growing up on the land, and spending a few years contract mustering, she knew making an impact on attitudes around safety would not be an easy task. As the red dirt and shrubbery rolled past them, she had a moment of uncertainty. She turned to her best mate in the passenger seat and sighed ‘how am I going to do it?’, to which her father replied, ‘rural women’. It made sense. Women are often the ones
connecting family, staff and the community.
In the seven years since that conversation in the ute, Alex has built a health and safety consultancy business and launched the #PlantASeedForSafety movement, a project celebrating Australian and New Zealand rural women and their role in creating change on-farms and in communities.
It is an initiative that saw Alex, now 33, named SA’s AgriFutures™ Rural Woman of the Year in 2018 and led to her acceptance into the National Farmers’ Federation’s 2020 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program. After taking off in Australia, it has quickly spread across the ditch to New Zealand as the two countries share in a common worry for safety on farms. Inspiring stories from rural women fill the pages of The #PlantASeedForSafety Project’s website. These women have opened up to share heart-warming and heart-wrenching stories with handy tips on keeping themselves, their family and their staff safe.
“It recognises rural women as key influencers and experts in, not only their businesses, but in their homes and their local communities,” Alex says. “Rural women have a vested interest in keeping people safe, they are often the ones who are left carrying the bundle if their significant other is seriously injured or worse, killed.”
She’s adamant that while women are accustomed to wearing many hats, the health and safety hat is an especially good fit. “Women are naturally more risk averse, and they will often identify a risk before their male counterparts.” The #PlantASeedForSafety Project aims to give these women the confidence to start crucial conversations about the practice of health and safety that is often missed amongst the emphasis on paperwork and getting things done.