Based on a farm near Ungarra on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, Karen is a relentless supporter of the agriculture industry at large. A farmer, a mother and the owner-operator of Broadacre Farm Safety, Karen was the recipient of the 2017 SafeWork SA Augusta Zadow Award and is passionate about helping farmers navigate the complex regulatory landscape associated with farming. Karen enjoys challenging the stereotypes associated with being a ‘farmer’s wife’, supporting other rural women and spending time at home on the farm with her children.

When asked what concerned Karen about the health and safety of those in rural industries and communities, Karen recalled an incident whereby a pump had caught fire in the rear of a work ute. In the absence of access to high pressure water, Karen reinforced the benefit of pump-fed water when extinguishing a fire, as opposed to gravity-fed. Karen also highlighted the need to enable conversations about safety without ‘preaching’; to suggest changes to the work in a gradual way, and that when dealing with defiant family members, to take a subtle and informed approach to planting a seed for safety.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Caring, decisive and impatient.

What's one achievement you are most proud of?

Personally – raising beautiful, caring children, and career wise – winning the SafeWork SA Augusta Zadow Award.

What makes you truly happy?

Being home on the farm with the kids.

What do you love the most about being a rural woman?

I love challenging the stereotypes associated with what it means to be a ‘farmer’s wife’, and the various roles women play in agriculture.

If you can do a job, you can do it, your gender is of no consequence.

Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.

When a pump caught fire in the back of the work ute!

What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?

No one was injured, but we could have had better water pressure in the house yard, which we now have!! Water to that outlet was originally gravity fed, but it’s now attached to a pump for better pressure.

"Don't preach. There are many small things that can be done that ease others into safety improvements in a more subtle way."

Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done? 

No, it’s just when the conversation arises really. Being prepared for that conversation and knowing in advance what suggestions you might make for improvements in how you are doing things on the farm. 

Definitely not during busy work times though.

If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?

Don’t preach. Educate yourself in what improvements are needed. Be prepared for those conversations where you can provide your educated opinion. Make improvements yourself in a gradual way. There are many small things that can be done that ease others into safety improvements in a more subtle way. The older generation need a more relaxed approach to safety improvement, they absolutely hate being dictated to by regulators as to how to run their farm.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

If the farm business ownership still involves people who are difficult to deal with on this subject, I often just leave them out of the workforce safety conversations – at least in the beginning. If they insist on being defiant, leave them out. Focus on keeping your workers safe, informed and involved in safety improvements.

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