It’s not all clipboards and hard hats

When it comes to Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) you may think of
people with hard hats and clipboards, but Alex Thomas is flipping that
stereotype on its head.

Alex Thomas’ philosophy is simple: get people home, alive, at the end of the work day.

Alex has lived in more places than the average person; from some of the most remote locations to some of the most densely populated. Home for her is where she spent school holidays – the family station near Yantu in South Australia.

As a kid there was no school bus and no principal. Alex’s teacher was her mum and the school days were spent at home, where the program was all about starting early, finishing by lunchtime and heading outside for the rest of the day.

“I remember when we got the internet Dad would bring his friends into the schoolroom and be like ‘look at this computer,’” she said, “we’d all stand around, look at the computer and watch him fire up the internet and search the web.”

Alex describes her early years as spent living in her father’s shadow. Growing up, she was desperate to stay on the land. She dreamed of walking in her fathers footsteps and becoming a station owner. 

It wouldn’t be quite that simple, though. 

“I remember being told unceremoniously that that was not a job for girls.”

Then, while Alex was away at boarding school, a series of difficult events saw the family station put on the market and sold. Her sense of home was sharply taken from her. 

Following this loss, as the end of her schooling rolled around, Alex headed bush working as a station hand and contract musterer.

After returning home and deciding it was time to get on with her life, she followed her dad to a mining community, where the options for employment as a female were either administration or health and safety.

“I really had no clue what I was getting myself into,” she said,

“Health and safety is traditionally seen as very compliance orientated, autocratic, high vis – all that stuff. [It’s seen as] so disconnected from the intent, which is to honour people’s livelihoods.”

Seeing the opportunity to help save lives in agriculture whilst also experiencing the decline of her own father’s health spurred Alex to start her own business. 

“I was watching what was happening to my dad – there’s obviously a huge need for preventing this from happening to other people’s families,” she said.

Nowadays, Alex wears two hats: one as a social entrepreneur with the Plant a Seed for Safety initiative and the other as a WHS consultant.

“With the Plant a Seed for Safety initiative, that’s about putting health and safety front of mind in people in those in rural communities, and ultimately helping people get home at the end of each day”

In her role as a consultant, Alex puts it pretty simply when it comes to working with medium to large-sized businesses

“I really unpick the narrative that health and safety is all about compliance and box-ticking and stuff like that. [I focus on] making it real for them and re-orientating it back to the primary intent, which is just don’t kill someone.”

With all of this in mind, it is no surprise that Alex has been recognised as a 2020 Syngenta Growth Award Winner in the People and Community category.

With her wit and humour Alex truly is making a lasting change in rural Australia. She’s down to earth and real, it’s what makes her such an incredible person.

“I will never really know how much of an impact this stuff that I do is having because it’s not often the people tell you ‘I nearly died today. But I didn’t, because of you…’” 

But her message is clear: “if you’re passionate about something, there’s an opportunity for it in agriculture.”

You can listen to Alex’s podcast now on your favourite podcast platform or via the link below.

Published by Oli Le Lievre

Oli is the Founder and creator of Humans of Agriculture. He's passionate about celebrating the diverse and vast opportunities in agriculture, one story at a time.

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