• Venessa
    Hi team, we have recently had an individual apply for a position on our harvesting team that has a hearing-impairment. We employ individuals with working holiday visas. We obviously would like to give this person a chance but I'm unsure how to keep the individual safe from harm. The tasks are walking behind a tractor, cutting vegetables and placing them into a bin. What should I implement? I would get a sign language interpreter for the induction. Thanks for all input.
  • KeithH
    My suggestions start with learning diversity and inclusiveness integrated with the advantages of discarding preconceptions and fully scoping activities to determine the requirements of positions to erase later guesswork and misconceptions.

    @Venessa, while your question is possibly posed honestly, it has IMHO some extremely negative connotations. Several online articles may assist your quest for solutions. Here in NZ there is Paralympics NZ and Whaikaha. There are other sources overseas.
  • Venessa
    Your insights underscore the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity, values that both the company and I strongly endorse. I'm puzzled as to why my post may have been interpreted differently by you. My intention, which I want to stress, is to promote a safe and inclusive workplace environment through meticulous planning, ensuring the well-being of all individuals. I respectfully disagree with the characterization of the post as having "extremely negative connotations." Furthermore, as someone who has been in New Zealand for several decades, I'm uncertain how to interpret your use of "here in NZ." Mentioning organizations like Paralympics NZ and Whaikaha reflects a proactive approach to gathering information and support. Thank you for sharing your insights.
  • Joseph
    As there is a range of level of hearing impairment exactly how you would manage the risks associated with the work will depend on the worker. Making sure there are clear visual warnings (flashing lights, high vis etc) will be more important as will be establishing an agreed form of communication between workers to enable them to communicate instructions effectively.

    You could try contacting Workbridge - https://workbridge.co.nz/employer-resources to see if they have any resources or information they can make available to you.

    Having played sport with hearing impaired people I found they were easy to integrate and once people understood what was needed it was easy to manage. The last part of the sentence is key as you will need to train and assist your other workers to help them understand what is required to help the new employee.
    Finally, as an aside as discrimination for disability is a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act that may be where Keith is coming from.
  • Darren Cottingham
    People with hearing impairments often have much better other senses to compensate. We see this with drivers - they are much better with their peripheral vision.
    If everyone on the team is aware of the person's hearing impairment, plus you have good safety practices such as flashing beacons, etc, then the risk would appear to be minimal.
  • Mike Massaar
    The 'legal' test is how you can "reasonably accommodate" a person. While health and safety can over-ride this, I think Joseph and Darren have given good advice on how this could be practicably met.
  • Chris Peace
    A few years ago in the Wellington branch of NZISM we had a guest speaker who showed a device attached to a vehicle (eg, FLT) that could detect a pedestrian wearing a reflective strip and sound an alarm so the driver could stop. Somewhere, I have the brochure and had the website address .... (my filing system has failed me!).
    The technology was practicable (it exists) and the cost was minimal (reasonable) so it would meet the requirements of the Act.
  • Gail Swanepoel
    I don't believe you are alone here,Vanessa. Reaching out to Workbridge could be a constructive step in finding valuable information about the current situation. Based on our experience with them, they were able to provide useful insights. It's worth considering reaching out to them for their expertise. Vanessa, I, too, would you get some helpful information from Workbridge, from whom we have resources and information in the past about a similar situation. You are not alone with this one.
  • Venessa
    This is something that would be suitable for all our teams in the field and a great suggestion. Thanks. I'll look it up.
  • Venessa
    I appreciate your input. I've explored Workbridge, and I must say, there's an abundance of valuable resources available there!
    When it comes to addressing discrimination, I'm thoroughly familiar with the Human Rights Act, especially given my role in Human Resources. Our team is wonderfully diverse, and I'm committed to equipping all employees with the resources they need to thrive and stay safe. In sharing my thoughts here, I've aimed to provide a clear perspective in order to receive constructive feedback.
  • Mandy Gudgeon
    Vanessa, my prior passion was working with people with an impairment or disability as an occupational therapist. So, I'm very pleased to read about you giving this chap a go as too many employers would put him in the hard basket. Apart from some written resources Workbridge were of absolutely no use to us for several hearing-impaired staff; however MBIE came to the party!!!
    Great you will have an interpreter for induction process but an on the job a work buddy could be a strategy to consider also. You may find with your standard operating controls in place while workers are picking alongside the trailer that little extra provision is needed. Joseph and Darren are aligned with my thinking and as stated above "Having played sport with hearing impaired people I found they were easy to integrate and once people understood what was needed it was easy to manage.
    Not knowing what language the person speaks and if there are meetings or updates, toolbox talks pre-shift etc you may find a couple of apps handy. Our staff have them loaded on their cell phones that are then placed close to whoever is speaking and it live transcribes. Androids - Play Store = 'Live Transcribe' and IPhones ...........may have a similar app?
    As the chap only has a hearing impairment, you may consider asking him what is the best way for other people to talk to him. Intermediaries don't always work. Some tips when communicating with hearing impaired = No shouting, avoid background noise, rephrase if not understood the first time, using facial expressions and gestures, speaking slowly and clearly (not using Kiwi slang) and making sure your face is seen help the message receiver.
    PS - some of our best workers are those with a disability or impairment; so pleased to have a job they are reliable, never take sick leave and contribute well within their work teams.
  • Wayne Nicholl
    good on you for helping make a difference to this persons life. He has probably been beaten by systems for a while. This needs to be risk based. Ie: what are the risks if he is behind the tractor? I would break down each part of his expected duties - identify any risks and put controls in place. This takes some time but will be worth it. Making sure that people around them know and there are some really cool tools now with geotec. All the best with this one
  • Chris Peace
    Please let me know when you've found it
  • Janet Mary Houston
    Vanessa, I've been often underwhelmed when auditing or training on workplace health and safety cultures and there are often so little thought in place for any form of employee impairment / disability. Even heard from directly from employees where they have been forgotten during an emergency drill or were unable to access the disabled toilet during a 6 hour lockdown. It prompted me to read a bit more on the subject and I came upon a great document that the Office of the Ombudsman put out in February 2023. It's well worth a read - https://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/resources/removing-barriers-reasonable-accommodation-disabled-people-aotearoa . Good on you for the inclusivity at your place of work. I've started to include it as an question when auditing workplaces and 90% of the time there is nothing in place - so started to include commentary on it in the culture component and I give often sensible and simple recommendations on how they can improve the workplace for their impaired or disabled employees. NZ has still a lot of work to do in this space.
  • Venessa
    I've found a similar device. I'm looking into it further. Here is the link:
  • Chris Peace
    that's it! Well done and thank you
  • Annalisa
    I've a friend that works as a sign language interpreter, she often goes to factories to support the training and induction of the deaf. I believe this comes at no cost to employers, I asked her about high risk environments and they can usually support effective risk management for the deaf :-)
  • Andrew
    We have a few fully deaf people. We don't think of them any differently from anyone else.

    Everyone has to have at least basic communication skills. So our deaf people are able to lip read.

    From there verbal communication has to be clear and simple - no different from everyone else since for many English is a second language.

    About the only accommodation we have made is to ensure there is a buddy who will alert the deaf when our fire alarms go off.

    For most procedures we have simple instructions with pictures - helps reduce need for verbal language. Every one uses these.

    We also use I-Sign for interpretation services from time to time. This might be for large staff meetings when more complex information is being communicated. Or for Performance Management meetings (yes - we treat all staff the same and if a deaf person doesn't perform to expectation they will be managed). This is a free service - the deaf person just needs to be registered.

    Don't over complicate things. Deaf people arent handicapped. They just have communication challenges like lots of other people.
  • Venessa
    Would she be happy for you to pass her details onto me please?
  • Shannon
    Hi there, the person may already be working with a support organisation. That organisation will provide help to you. And the person themselves will also be able to show you how to manage... in my experience, people with access challenges can often know exactly what is needed. But, due to discrimination coupled the strong drive to get a job, they aim to present as 'the same' as everyone else - they are so worried they won't get the job. Yet what they need is often so minor it really is not a barrier. And your organisation will see benefits from that other way of working for your other staff.

    You could contact Be Lab on 09 309 8966 or email - they can give advice and, potentially, someone to give advice.

    WorkBridge is also good 0508 858 858.

    There is also funding if equipment is needed - although I am not sure you'd need any tbh.

    Go for it! You won't regret it, it is an interesting road and we need employers like you to embrace the opportunity

  • Annalisa
    Hi Venessa, she works for an organisation called Deaf Aotearoa https://www.deaf.org.nz/ and there are a team that do a lot of interpretation work (workplaces, courts etc), it would be best to reach out to them in the first instance
  • Jono Johnson
    Good on you for doing this! I worked at a business in the Manawatu who had two deaf people working there, and when I asked them if they could understand what was being said at staff/toolbox meetings they didn't have a clue. They could lip read to a certain extent but were in no way good enough to do a whole meeting. One of them had worked there for 10 yrs plus, I was absolutely staggered that no effort had been made at any type of inclusion.
    There may be an NGO in your town that provides interpreters for free, which is what we made use of, and also what Andrew says above i.e. we got buddies for them so they knew the alarms were going off (plus big flashing lights), and pictorial SOPs etc. etc.
    Good luck!
  • MattD2
    They could lip read to a certain extent but were in no way good enough to do a whole meeting.Jono Johnson
    I can imagine that this would be even worse if the toolboxes had any sort of actual discussions rather than just the standard "supervisor's spiel and sign the page please" - being hearing impaired and keeping track of what is being said in a group discussion would be a nightmare, let alone being able to effectively be able to input into the conversation themselves.
    @Venessa regarding things like meetings/toolboxes, as others have suggested talk to them about the best way for them to communicate, and one suggestion is to ensure that prior to the meeting they have a copy of the meeting/toolbox/etc. agenda or notes and an opportunity to provide written feedback/comments they would like to be raised or discussed. And to check in after meetings that they didn't miss anything being discussed.

    This needs to be risk based. Ie: what are the risks if he is behind the tractor? I would break down each part of his expected duties - identify any risks and put controls in place.Wayne Nicholl
    I agree with you @Wayne Nicholl, and from @Venessa other threads/comments I am pretty confident that they will have the general risks/controls identified for the work, so it might be as simple as reviewing if the current controls are effective for someone who is hearing impaired, e.g. if the only warning signal is an audible alarm then additional controls will be needed.
  • rebecca telfer
    Hi Team.
    We have in our team a lady who is totally deaf. She is an asset to our team as she picks up risks and hazards around the site, that are sometimes overlooked. We have lights that flash above doors for things like emergencies that are attached to the fire alarms.
    I also engage with MSD to get funding annually for an interpreter for when we have our monthly meetings so she is part of the team, therefore not only does she know what the meeting items that are being discussed, but she can put forward her own discussion points at the same time. It's a help that she can also lip read.
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