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Waikato farmers launch innovative health and safety app

15 May 2017

Waikato farmers launch innovative health and safety app

Waikato farmers have developed an innovative app that aims help farmers meet their health and safety obligations and streamline communication to those who come to farm.

Husband and wife Horsham Downs dairy farmers Megan Owen and Jason Ham teamed up with Hamilton-based tech company Bridge Point to create the cloud-based app Orange Cross, which launched in late 2016.

Orange Cross will be showcased at the Innovation Centre at Fieldays from June 14-17.

“Orange Cross was born from a belief that New Zealand farmers already do things to keep their staff and themselves safe and healthy,” said Owen.

“Traditionally farmers haven’t been that good at documenting what they do. There is a reluctance to record what is known as ‘common sense’. Documentation has been an afterthought.”

The idea for the app came about after getting frustrated with paper that was never in the right place at the right time and the apparent need for annual transmission of masses of paper that was ignored.

“Our target user is the guy in the paddock who is managing a farm,” said Owen.

“They don’t want to spend hours on a PC, but they know they need to manage risk.

“We take the manual that sat in the corner of the office – pristine in its cobwebs – and put it into the hands of those most likely to be able to make a difference – the people in the field.”

The couple worked with Ben Wilson of Bridge Point on the app.

Orange Cross allows the sharing of induction information simply. The Orange Cross team helps farmers set up their farm and they have access to templates that can be adapted to different farming systems.

Once a contractor or staff member is inducted, they can access that farm’s risk register, raise incidents and help the farm owner fine-tune their health and safety systems and processes over time.

Someone receiving Orange Cross information from a farmer can set up their own free version of the app. Similarly contractors sharing their risk profile allow their farming clients to have a free version which gives users access to 80 per cent of the app’s capabilities. The full version unlocks other aspects such as exporting, reporting, and sharing information with staff and contractors.

“Those inducted to a farm have access to a farm map and risk register that can be searched as well as a comprehensive contact list,” said Owen.

“The risk register covers what to do to keep safe and allows users to report things that are going on.

“A visitor to the farm can search for drains or the cow shed and see all risks that have been identified there.

“Sometimes people come to the farm to work in one area and end up in another – so they can search relevant details.”

The paid version of Orange Cross is charged out on a per farm model, not per staff member, ensuring it remains cost effective.

Owen said while the app is easy to use, it has to be used to be effective.

“Not using the app is like having an unopened toothbrush in a packet. If it sits on a shelf for six months and isn’t used, you can’t then complain to the dentist when you need fillings.”

She said Orange Cross users were documenting more because the app was so easy to use.

Farmers have full control of who has their information; when staff leave their access is revoked and, similarly, contractors can have their access revoked.

Waikato contractor Aaron Smith-Hall has been using Orange Cross for about six months and recently saw how valuable it was to his business.

“We recently had an incident that involved fire trucks and insurance people,” Smith-Hall said.

“Being able to immediately show our documented processes, control plans and, at the push of a button, get a hard copy for insurance people was one of the few highlights of a stressful couple of days.

“We were thrilled that Orange Cross made this part of the process so easy and it was a reminder to us to always keep things updated. We can now because we always have our phones with us – and I was never that great at paper work in the first place.”

BIOS

Megan Owen

Following completion of a bachelor degree in food technology, Megan’s work life (pre children) saw her working for entities that merged to form Fonterra. The work was highly regulated especially around food safety.

After several years in laboratory management and product development, Megan worked in the production area culminating in the factory management role at Waitoa cheese plant. She then went to lead a group of people in the supply chain functions for the newly formed Fonterra.

Megan’s history with regulatory standards, including those around safe design of factories and food safety, together with the associated documentation and auditing, mean she is balanced in the need for practical application of complex systems.

Megan has been involved in policy work with MOTU (economic and public policy research) and is involved in her local community via Rural Women NZ and her children’s school’s Parent Association.

Jason Ham

Jason graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Agriculture and worked as a consulting officer for NZ Dairy Board, which later split into LIC and DairyNZ. After travelling with Megan overseas, Jason returned to New Zealand to manage a 300-cow farm for a year before they went 50/50 share milking as a couple (150 cows, four years).

After steady increases in production the opportunity to go move to a larger herd was taken (350 cows, six years), the farm owner offered them their current role – 500 cows – in 2006.

No technophile, Jason reluctantly retired his flip phone in 2015. Jason interacts more with the health and safety system now as it is literally with him all the time – and it is his.


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