Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Drawing a line under preventable injuries

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The resources to improve on-farm safety are there, Lindy Nelson says, ‘and we need the willingness to change to be there’.
As part of its ‘Half-Arsed Stops Here’ campaign, Safer Farms is running monthly toolbox meetings where farmers share safety tips that are working for them.
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HEAVY machinery, working with large animals, farm vehicles, chemicals – all are risks that must be managed effectively on farms but one of the biggest dangers of all is complacency, said industry leader Lindy Nelson. 

Wairarapa farmer Nelson chairs the Agricultural Leaders Health and Safety Action Group (Safer Farms), which has launched the hard-hitting Half Arsed Stops Here campaign. 

She said Half-Arsed Stops Here makes it clear that as a community, the sector is focused on drawing a line, setting new standards and taking safety seriously.

Nelson, who was also founder of the Agri-Women’s Development Trust, said Half-Arsed Stops Here challenges people to make a stand and share a clear message across farming communities, to reject complacency and to lead by example.

“This is about co-creating a new vision for safety, for all us in farming. It’s moving away from a compliance model towards a culture of care. We are calling for leaders at all levels, whether a contractor, a farmer or another leadership role within your community. When you step up to share that message then others will take note – and we will support and equip you to deliver on that.” 

More people die in accidents on farms than in any other New Zealand industry. During 2022, there were 14 farming workplace fatalities and 18,000 new claims to ACC for farming-related injuries. A further five died as a result of farm work accidents during the first three months of 2023. 

Nelson said the campaign, which is underpinned by Safer Farms new Farm Without Harm strategy, is about answers and solutions coming from the sector itself.

It’s about farmers talking with and asking questions of farmers to find and share the solutions that are working best for us. It’s focused on sharing what works, learning from each other and putting it into action. 

“It’s about opening our minds to doing some things differently and rejecting behaviours and attitudes that can result in harm to ourselves or those around us. Because that is what professionals do, that is what caring communities do. A safer farming future starts with all of us.”

Farming related injuries cover a very wide spectrum. A farm vehicle remains a factor in most fatal accidents. Lifting and strain injuries, particularly lower back and spine, account for the highest number of farm-related injury claims. 

Crushing, impact, biting and other injuries involving livestock; hand injuries; falls from height or slip-and-trips on the same level; burns; chemical contact; being hit by heavy moving or falling objects; becoming trapped in machinery or equipment; electrical shocks; and explosions all feature in the annual toll of people getting hurt. 

During 2022, almost 1300 children and teenagers suffered injuries on farms severe enough to warrant a GP visit, hospitalisation or further treatment. 

Farming organisations like DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb New Zealand, along with Safer Farms, have developed a comprehensive range of accessible resources that farmers can use and tailor to their farms, businesses and their people,” Nelson said.

“But learning from each other and past incidents is key. We’ve pulled health & safety experts from organisations across the sector to share learnings from incidents on farm, whether it’s injuries suffered from working alone or from a tractor rollover under load, or contractors operating heavy machinery on farm. 

“These are being distributed as Safety Alerts, which are emailed out every month and posted to Farm without Harm social channels and website. These are useful tools or case studies to discuss at team meetings, or to put up for people to read.”

Nelson said there are very good examples of farms and larger corporations that have developed strong cultures of care, and are leading by example. 

“There is no intellectual property on safety. We are seeing a great willingness for people to share their experiences and learnings. In a caring culture, people come first. You identify the risks on your farm and, if you can, you eliminate them. 

“If you can’t eliminate then you isolate and if neither is possible, you take steps to minimise them. You monitor for any change and communicate to and share updates with everyone who needs to know.

The resources are there and we need the willingness to change to be there. It’s time for us to all work together to solve our health and safety challenges and to ensure our farming people can come home safe every day.”

MORE: To sign up to Safety Alerts and find more helpful resources, please visit www.farmwithoutharm.org.nz 

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