Rural Landscape

Helping grow
the country

< Back to Latest News
9 June 2021

WorkSafe Profile: Joseph Watts - Driving awareness of health and safety in shearing industry

This profile is part of a seven-part series from WorkSafe New Zealand sharing the health and safety approaches taken by the grand finalists of the 2021 FMG Young Farmer of the Year competition.  Joseph Watts, Technical Field Rep for PGG Wrightson, will represent East Coast in the national competition.

“Industry campaigns and growing professionalism are driving awareness of health and safety among shearers,” says Joseph. Yet, he still sees plenty of room for improvement.

Joseph began his rural career as a shearer, having completed a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise degree and then played squash professionally for several years.  He went on to gain a Graduate Diploma in Rural Studies from Massey University and is now a Technical Field Representative for PGG Wrightson as well as farming some beef cattle on a 30 acre site at Waipukurau, with his partner, vet Lucy Dowsett.

Even though he is no longer shearing full-time, Joseph still likes to keep his hand in, doing some shearing in his spare time and helping out mates and following shearing social media pages.

In 2018, Federated Farmers and the New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association, with support from ACC and WorkSafe, joined forces to implement the Tahi Ngātahi programme to improve safety and performance in the country’s woolsheds. Joseph says he has started to see the positive impact of the programme in the industry.

Having been a professional sportsperson, Joseph was always aware of the importance of eating well, keeping hydrated, warming up and doing stretches before physical work and taking steps to avoid sprains and strains.

Information about health, safety and wellbeing for people working in the sector, including techniques, stretching and strengthening and nutrition, is available through the Tahi Ngātahi website. Woolshed workers, farmers and shearing contractors can also sign up for online learning through the page – at tahingatahi.co.nz

“There’s good information available and I’m seeing awareness growing steadily,” says Joseph. “People are starting to view shearing as a long-term professional career, where you can operate and compete at a high level. They are starting to recognise that if they want to do it long term, they need to look after themselves.

“The industry has always tended to put the new shearers with the experienced guys, to learn good techniques from them, but people are taking that a lot more seriously. I see a lot more sheep in slings now, to avoid muscle strains, and people doing stretches at the beginning and end of the day. I tend to do some stretches and go fairly easy for the first 15 or so minutes, while my body warms up.

“I think people have always recognised that if you keep your equipment sharp, that makes shearing easier, but there has been less understanding of how using blunt equipment will affect your body in the future. There are still those who can’t be bothered to put the effort into good maintenance but there is definitely more awareness around that.

“You also see a growing number of shearers bringing their own shearing machines to sheds – to make sure equipment is in the best shape for shearing. I was helping out at a shed recently with three young shearers, all in their 20s, and they had all their own machines.”

Joseph says hygiene is another issue that is gradually improving but could still be better.

“I was what you could call a ‘tidy kid’ and always very aware about good hand-washing practices, especially before eating,” he says.

“When I started shearing, I just had to get over that because there were sheds that literally had no hand washing facilities. You have to eat, to keep your energy up and you wouldn’t want to use your water bottle to wash because there was nowhere to refill it, so I would be handling food with my hands covered with grease, wool and worse. That is getting better, but every shed should have running water, liquid soap and paper towels to dry your hands.”

Joseph also sees awareness about nutrition growing.

“It’s very demanding work. People have always been pretty good about keeping hydrated but when I was shearing, a lot of people lived on junk – literally packet chips, processed stuff and takeaways.

“But there’s a lot of industry advice about that now and shearing companies are working to educate people about eating better. Some very high performing shearers work with nutritionists – and that approach filters down. You see a lot on shearing and social media about eating well and different electrolytes and it’s really good to see those discussions.

“Again, my background means I’ve always been aware about the importance of a good diet. I tend to eat a balance of meat, vegetables and carbs. If I’m shearing, I might make extra pasta to take with me or a healthy sandwich and nuts and grains. I allow myself treats too – I take the view that if I’m eating good stuff, I can have a few lollies. I think if you have a good diet, water is sufficient but I will supplement with electrolytes sometimes.”

While shearing full-time, Joseph was fortunate to escape serious injury when he was knocked unconscious by the spinning bucket of an old wool press.

“I did notice things were starting to get better around the time I left shearing, about four years ago, largely due to awareness about the new regulations coming in,” he says. "That included replacing old machinery, like wool presses.”

ENDS

The FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final will take place in the Christchurch, 1-3 July.  Keep an eye on Facebook or www.worksafe.govt.nz/youngfarmer2021 for updates.

For more information: WorkSafe media phone 021 823 007. 

Joseph Watts Young farmer of the Year

Related Articles

Canterbury Weather Event Update

01 June 2021

Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by the severe weather event in Canterbury and we are monitoring the situation closely to establish what support our customers and communities need and how we can assist. ‘Helping grow the country’ is our vision and is at the heart of what we do, and this is especially the case at times of challenge and adversity.

The Canterbury region and surrounding areas have experienced a significant flood event and the full impact of this may not be known until flood waters recede and assessments undertaken. That effort is getting underway as the rain has eased. In the meantime, all our stores remain open, and our staff will be contacting customers and getting on-farm where practicable and offering support. We have heard of heartening stories of neighbours and communities helping one another.

The Rural Support Trust teams are coordinating their response efforts in the rural areas and PGW will continue to liaise and assist where we are able to do so. The Trust is also available to provide support and advice and details can be found at www.rural-support.org.nz.

Both the Temuka and Canterbury Park livestock saleyards will remain closed this week as assessment of the roading infrastructure in the area is assessed.  As conditions allow, we hope that the calendared sales will recommence again soon and we will update the situation on our website.

Road and bridge closures have caused disruption to transport routes and damaged roads cause hazards for drivers, so please be cautious when driving. For our part, PGW will also be assessing the impacts that road closures will have on logistics and our supply chain. We are also in the process of assessing the immediate needs of our farmer customers as they look to address flood damage and implications for livestock etc.

PGW is committed to supporting our customers through this challenging period of damage assessment and the recovery phase. We continue to monitor the situation and we will work with customers to respond to any challenges that may emerge.

Further information on support available and information is available through the following:

For further information about how we can support you with your on-farm needs please contact your local PGW store or representative.

 

Wool Interview on The Country 30 April 2021

03 May 2021
Wool report: Influencer's stance on wool industry

This week The Country's Jamie Mackay is joined by PGG Wrightson's Grant Edwards to look at the wool market this month.

Mackay mentioned an opinion piece by Nadia Lim where she talked about the importance of the wool industry.

Edwards said it was a great influence as it raised awareness around the sustainability and multiple uses of wool.

Mackay quoted some stats provided by Lim, which highlighted that in the USA, 7 per cent of non-compostable waste in landfills was synthetic carpets, rugs, and flooring.

Back home, the wool market had been steady throughout April, Edwards said.

However, the quality of wool was being affected by the climate, and warmer weather had resulted in some yellowing. Edwards said it had been average at best.

Meanwhile, India was an increasing player in the wool market, but the recent rise in Covid cases had had a flow on effect on the economy.

One of the key challenges had been shipping, Edwards said.

Wool Auction Market Report North Island 29 April 2021 - N44

30 April 2021
Catch up on the latest wool auction market report with roving reporters Baaarbra and Belindaaa!

Share this page