WorkSafe is urging farmers to lose the “it won’t happen to me” mentality, following a spate of machinery-related fatalities this year.
According to figures supplied by WorkSafe NZ, five people died in farm accidents in the first 10 weeks of 2023. In that period there were also 30 incidents involving injury or illness.
Of concern is that the five fatalities so far this year are almost half that of the entire 12-month period ending November 2022, when 11 people died.
WorkSafe general inspectorate of New Plymouth and Hamilton Greg Peters said this year’s deaths were predominately the result of tractor and quad bike rollovers.
“WorkSafe has gone to great pains to speak to farmers about the hazards and danger of machinery on farms.
“It’s disappointing that we continue to have these high number of instances involving machinery. Every farmer out there will know someone who has been seriously harmed or killed on a piece of equipment.”
Peters reinforced that farm machinery can cost lives and farmers needed to take time to think about that they are doing, and how they are doing it.
“Farming isn’t an emergency response job. You’re not in the police, fire service … you’ve got time to think about what it is you are going to do,” he said.
Farmers should be questioning if they need to take machinery down a particular slope, or can they use a different route.
“If it takes five minutes longer, that’s nothing compared to what the ultimate consequences could be.
“It’s sad to know what the consequences of a fatality in any workplace are on the families, or the ones that are left behind.”
Peters, a former farmer, said WorkSafe is conscious of the “unprecedented stress” some farmers are under, particularly those affected by the recent cyclones. The organisation is keen to ensure that doesn’t lead to an increase in accidents. When under stress, it is even more important farmers take time to plan for weather events and how to deal with the aftermath.
Having an emergency response plan in place, holding discussions with banks before events occur and checking insurance cover is up to speed can help take the pressure off.
“But they also need to make sure they know where to reach out to the organisations that are there to support them, such as the Rural Support Trust, neighbours, family and friends.
“It’s not a sign of weakness to put up your hand and say ‘I need some help here’.”
Weather events are not new for farmers but the frequency seems to be increasing, Peters said. But that is not an excuse for increased accidents.
“Farming is an intense lifestyle. There has always been a bad track record on our farms for serious injury loss, even when there haven’t been these weather events.
“Farmers need to think about the worst-case scenario and get rid of this ‘it won’t happen to me’ mentality.”