Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Safety caution as farm accidents claim 4

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Weather, staffing challenges suspected as WorkSafe probes causes.
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Four people have died in farm vehicle accidents in New Zealand in the past month and WorkSafe says variable weather conditions could be a factor.

WorkSafe confirmed it has been informed of seven incidents in NZ during the past month involving farm vehicles, where people have died or been injured.

These involved quad bikes, a tractor, a side by side, a front-end loader and a harvester. “Sadly there have been four deaths,” said WorkSafe spokesperson Paul West. 

“We have initial inquiries underway, and part of these inquiries will establish whether each incident occurred at a workplace or as a result of work activity.”

The fatalities occurred in Southland, Taumarunui, Tokoroa and Opotiki.

According to WorkSafe statistics, 11 people died in agriculture-related incidents between November 2021 and October 2022. Six of those deaths involved vehicles.

West said the latest accidents are a reminder for those working on farms to make health and safety a priority.

“This is a time of year where we are experiencing variable weather and growth, and variable ground surface conditions. 

“Slope surfaces can be especially problematic at this time of year.” 

West said farm work consists of  “a never-ending list of tasks and constant reprioritisation as weather, commodity prices and other factors within the farmer’s influence change”.

He said some farmers will be doing work that usually a contractor might do with equipment better suited to the task.

“We cannot let these challenges contribute to loss of life or injury. The people with the most power to influence this are those on the ground each day doing the work.” 

Federated Farmers national vice-president Wayne Langford echoed calls to make health and safety a priority on the farm. 

Recent weather conditions in some regions have put added pressure on farmers and at times only provided small windows for harvesting and planting crops.

“Farmers are trying to do more and more in less time, and when you add the labour shortage it’s not helping.”

Langford, who has responsibility for the Feds health and safety portfolio, said it is vital that health and safety remain “front of mind” , no matter how busy farmers were.

WorkSafe recommendations for reducing harm on farms include:

• Choose the right vehicle for the job and ensure the operator is competent to drive it.

• Think about safety outside of work activities. Farms can be dangerous for visitors and during recreation activities.

• Prioritise tractor and machinery maintenance. This should include attachments, good tyres and brakes.

• Tired people make mistakes. Do difficult things earlier in the day – save the easy stuff for later.

• If your vehicle is fitted with a seatbelt, use it.

• Consider installing crush protection on your quad bike.

• Ensure the vehicle is safely stopped and brakes are fully engaged before leaving the vehicle.

• Ensure machinery with moving parts has the appropriate guarding fitted and in use.

• Don’t be afraid to seek assistance when you need to. Neighbouring farmers are always more than willing to offer a lending hand.

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