Lincolnshire flower growers EM Cole (Farms) Ltd was established by James Cole’s grandfather in 1927. Having been through a world war, extreme weather events and dramatic market changes over the years the company, like many farming businesses, has grown resilience in the face of adversity and carried on for three generations.
The company supplies English cut flowers including tulips, stocks, sedums and lilies to the supermarket multiples, sometimes growing a staggering 20 million tulip stems per season.
“Our business has changed dramatically during the pandemic,” says James. “We are operating at 30% less volume and with fewer staff on site and so we are constantly adapting, extending the season and keeping the stock moving.
“We take health and safety seriously and have worked with NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services for a decade now. Essentially, I am a flower grower and in times of need it’s important to speak to a health and safety expert.
“At the beginning of the pandemic we faced a number of challenges from staff being stopped on their way to work to ensuring that safety guidance was fully understood by migrant workers. There were mixed messages about whether staff might be fined for going to work and what to do if they were stopped.
“Phillip our RMS safety consultant called me, and we went through an assessment of the business and the changes we needed to make. Although we had already put a lot of the right procedures in place – plenty of signage; controlled areas for separate teams; regular housekeeping, disinfecting, handwashing to name a few - RMS gave me easy to follow templates with the latest guidance and legislation.
“Many of our migrant workers might not necessarily watch the latest English-language news and know what is going on nationally, so it was important to make use of the guides for foreign workers and our onsite interpreters to ensure social distancing was maintained.
“From being given letters that we could give to staff travelling to work to other technical documentation, it also felt like a burden of paperwork had been lifted.
“It’s important for businesses to get the right health and safety advice and once you have a checklist in place it’s easy to update it. Speaking to RMS has given me the security and reassurance to get on with the business of growing flowers.”