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Goodnature: problem-solving and perseverance

See how Goodnature reduced noise pollution on their production line to increase our native birdsong.

Sometimes, “good enough” just doesn’t cut it – that’s Goodnature’s philosophy.

Craig Bond, Robbie van Dam and Stu Barr founded the Kiwi design company because they believed they could find a fresh solution to an old problem. The Department of Conservation works to eliminate possums, rats and stoats, but the traps used needed to be reset every time they caught something. That means a lot of tiresome work for DOC rangers, and it also meant our precious native birds weren’t being protected as well as they could be. 

Enter the Goodnature team. They invented the A24 Rat & Stoat trap and A12 Possum trap, which humanely kill multiple pests before needing to be reset. Goodnature knew there was a better way to address New Zealand’s pest problem, and they kept pushing until they found it.

“Our people are the only things that we’ve got that are going to get us to the future.”

They’ve brought the same high standards and perseverance to addressing their workplace health and safety challenges, particularly around noise control. Two years ago, they started designing a bespoke health and safety programme, one that would help them look after their expanding workforce even better.

“Our people are the only things that we’ve got that are going to get us to the future, and workplace safety is a really big part of that,” Craig says.

They started by partnering with another growing business and enlisting a health and safety specialist to give training to both sets of directors.

“That raised our awareness,” says biochemist Dr Christine Stockum, who is now the company’s health and safety coordinator on top of her main job of developing lures for the traps.

Christine realised one of Goodnature’s challenges would be dealing with noise on the production line. She used a special phone app to test the noise levels and found the loudest culprits were the airguns used to blow dust off the components of each trap before assembly.

Goodnature employees were all given hearing protection to wear, because the racket made by these airguns posed a long-term risk to their health. But management was determined to find a better solution, one that would allow employees to chat to each other and listen to music as they worked.

So they got stuck in, trying different nozzles for the airguns to see which was the quietest. Eventually, they made a surprising discovery – the nozzles weren’t actually necessary at all, and the airguns seemed much quieter when they were removed altogether.

 “The staff now don’t have to wear earplugs on the line. It means they can talk to each other, and it’s a nicer environment.”

Sure enough, the phone app showed a reduction in noise. Goodnature then had a professional noise survey carried out by Van Schaik Health & Safety Solutions, which confirmed that noise levels from the airguns were now low enough – but flagged another risk.

When traps have reached the end of their lives, Goodnature pulls them apart and recycles the components. The professional survey found that the drill driver they used for this was over the acceptable noise level, so they bought a new, quieter one. Problem solved.

“The staff didn’t have to wear earplugs on the line, which was great,” Craig says. “It meant they could talk to each other, and it was just a nicer environment.”

As Christine and the Goodnature management developed their tailor-made health and safety programme, they thought a lot about the wide variety of jobs the Goodnature team did and what each individual person needed.

“Our risks are diverse,” Christine says. “As well as the production line, we have people who spend time out in the field and a couple of people who spend a lot of time on the road.”

They appointed four different reps, one for each of their work groups: workshop, assembly, field workers and road-users and staff who only work in the office. All four were given specialised training, and they now have regular meetings.

Christine, Craig and the rest of the team were enthusiastic about the health and safety programme, because they knew it would bring about a lot of positive change. The next step was getting the wider staff engaged.

“We always talk about looking after each other,” Craig says. “If the priority is looking after one another and we share that responsibility, health and safety will naturally follow.”

“If the priority is looking after one another and we share that responsibility, health and safety will naturally follow.”

With that in mind, they launched a programme called Good for Goodnature, which allows employees to make suggestions for how the company could do better. Good for Goodnature has resulted in, for example, a new allowance for two annual mental health days per employee. “That came from a staff suggestion, and people got really excited about it,” says Christine.

Goodnature staff now get annual health tests, eye tests and hearing tests, plus subsidies for glasses, which many of them have happily taken up. Those who work out in the field are annually monitored for zoonotic diseases, diseases humans can catch from animals. Back in the office, Goodnature brought in an ergonomics specialist to make sure no one would be going home with aching muscles at the end of the day, whether they worked at a desk or on the production line.

Christine says her co-workers have had an excellent response to the Good for Goodnature programme.

“People are really engaged with it. It showed that our approach to health and safety wasn’t just about ticking boxes.”

Find out more about Goodnature(external link) on their website.