25 Feb 2019

Farmers warned over workplace deaths

4:53 pm on 25 February 2019

A farm safety group is warning the agricultural sector could face greater regulation if it fails to lift its poor health and safety record.

Quad bike, quad bikes

Photo: 123RF

Figures from WorkSafe New Zealand show 17 people died in farm workplace incidents last year compared to 10 deaths in 2017.

Agricultural Leaders' Health and Safety Action Group general manager Tony Watson said there had been a spike in farm workplace incidents over the 2018-19 summer and individuals should take simple steps to stop things going wrong.

"It comes down to a few minutes of the working day. It's about farmers asking themselves; What could go wrong? What am I doing about it? And, is it enough?."

Mr Watson said a good spring in New Zealand had resulted in exceptional grass growth and this could have been a factor in some recent on farm accidents involving cars, tractors and quad bikes.

"We've seen a lot more grass around in a lot of the country and a lot more hazards, I suppose, have been hidden in that [grass] whether it's logs, ruts, rocks... whatever.

"Vehicles are about 90-odd percent of the cause of fatalities on farm, so what we're thinking is a lot of people are getting caught out by having all that extra feed around," he said.

There was a clear expectation from consumers, communities and government regulators that the sector had to to do better or it would face tougher rules, Mr Watson said.

"I guess what we see in any other sector is that if there's really strong clues given by government and other agencies that things have to change, then sectors are given the opportunity to stand up and make that change themselves, and that's the situation the ag-sector is in right now.

"I believe if we don't lift our game and we don't reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in the sector then rules will be imposed on us, just like they have been with nutrients and water quality... so we're really asking farmers to try and get ahead of that."