2 Oct 2018

WorkSafe advises caution to farmer parents around risks

5:34 pm on 2 October 2018

WorkSafe is advising farmers to weigh up dangers posed by the vehicles and machinery they use, particularly when it comes to children.

The tractor harvester working on the field.

Photo: 123rf

Police are investigating an accident on Sunday in which Nadine Tomlinson and her three-year-old son Angus died on a rural property in North Otago.

Mrs Tomlinson is thought to have lost control of the tractor and trailer unit and gone into a reservoir.

WorkSafe said on average, six to seven farmers are killed every year when using tractors, and hundreds were seriously injured.

WorkSafe figures showed that in the past 11 months, one person was killed when a tractor rolled on a Taranaki farm in July this year, and another last November when a tractor rolled in a steep gully in Canterbury.

Acting chief executive Phil Parkes said too many farm accidents involved children.

"This is a terribly tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family involved and their local community," Mr Parkes said.

"Fatal accidents in the agricultural sector are occurring far too often, and they are also involving too many children."

Mr Parkes said farmers needed to consider the risks they were taking to get jobs done, the dangers posed by the vehicles they were using and how they were involving children in their farm businesses.

WorkSafe said farms were environments where families worked, lived and played, and as a workplace, they raised unique challenges that other businesses might not even consider.

"Farms come with big machines, big animals and big pressures. Children and their parents need to be aware of the risks farms present and work to manage those risks - acknowledging that managing these risks for children is different from managing them for adults," the agency said in a statement.

WorkSafe said many risks could easily be managed, for example, using vehicles suitable for passengers, fencing artificial ponds, covering pits, creating "safe kid zones" in dairy sheds, or working together with neighbours as farmers have always done.

"This means farming parents can still keep their children safe during busy work times," Mr Parkes said.

The agency's guidelines showed a list of rules about the operation of tractors and carrying passengers, including that a person in charge of a workplace had to make sure that no worker under 15 drove or rode on a tractor.

Federated Farmers' national president, Katie Milne, yesterday said it was too soon to consider calling for changes to regulations involving farm machinery and children.