22 Dec 2016

Call for safe farming in most dangerous period

9:51 am on 22 December 2016

It is the peak time of year for injuries in agriculture - one of New Zealand's most dangerous occupations - and WorkSafe is urging farmers to be aware of new safety regulations.

 Beef and Lamb NZ director and Wairarapa farmer George Tatham.

Beef and Lamb NZ director and Wairarapa farmer George Tatham Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Beef + Lamb New Zealand director George Tatham owns the 2300ha sheep and beef farm he grew up on near Wairarapa's Riversdale beach.

He said this was one of the busiest times of year, with many people coming and going.

"We've got lambs going on the truck off to be processed and then the rest are being separated off their mums - so yep, it's a busy time. Also shearing obviously, we've got Shear Expertise, the gang from Masterton, come out and do that for us."

A yard of weaned lambs at George Tatham's farm.

A yard of weaned lambs at George Tatham's farm. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Mr Tatham said the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 - which began to be enforced in April - had created a bit more paperwork, which could be a little daunting for some.

"In general I think some farmers are a little nervous about what the requirements are, there's probably a bit of a lack of understanding.

"It is a little bit more work, but there are a lot of other parts of our business that are a lot worse for compliance (paperwork)."

WorkSafe programme manager for agriculture Al McCone said slips and falls, vehicles, and animals topped the list for the most common causes of injury - and this time of year was particularly bad.

"It's almost as if that is when staff are off so the people that are left are covering more work and they are perhaps not cognisant of all the risks or they are trying to take some shortcuts.

"There's more injuries to kids over this period on farms, and that's because kids are home in holidays - they're out there doing stuff. The injuries for kids on farms seem to peak in January."

A typical pack of documents required from farmers.

A typical pack of documents required from farmers. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

Despite the new regulations, Mr McCone said, the statistics had unfortunately not improved. Of the 43 deaths at work this year, 16 were in agriculture - more than any other industry.

"That's why what we are doing now with Safer Farms, which is working with the farmers, is aimed at changing the culture on farms rather than putting out a whole lot of material that no one ever reads.

"Injuries on farms have too high a cost for families, communities and businesses - and the only people who can lower this are farmers."

WorkSafe inspector Sam Koronui visited Mr Tatham's farm to check it was complying this week.

Beef and dairy farmer George Tatham and Sam Koronui discuss hazards with Sam Halstead.

Sheep and Beef farmer George Tatham talks to Sam Koronui and Sam Halstead about hazards. Photo: RNZ / Alexa Cook

He said he spent most of his time on the road going from farm to farm, and as more people moved away to urban areas he had noticed a big shift in farming culture.

"It used to be two or three generations of people on farm, and [the farms] were a lot smaller. But now they are a lot bigger and people are coming from urban environments and it's their first experience of being on a farm.

"Fantastic for them because it's a new environment and everyone knows it's a great place to be - but the risk is a lot higher for them."

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