10 Feb 2015

Farm safety criticism rejected

2:49 pm on 10 February 2015

Federated Farmers is throwing its weight behind a new safety programme aimed at reducing farm accidents and rejects claims of poor employment standards.

nz farmer herding cattle

Photo: AFP

WorkSafe launched the new farm safety programme Safer Farms on Monday.

It is aimed at reducing the numbers of deaths and accidents on farms.

Federated Farmers said the programme is key to changing farmers' attitudes towards health and safety.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly.

Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly. Photo: CTU

However the Council of Trade Unions said it does not go far enough to change poor employment standards on farms.

CTU President Helen Kelly said more regulations are need to ensure farmers meet their workers' terms and conditions of employment.

"We think that the work safe plan ignores the big elephant in the room, which is that these accidents on farms are being caused by very very poor employment practices, and that that won't be fixed by safety programmes that don't address that."

No crisis

Federated Farmers rejects those claims and says there is no crisis.

Its health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne said "it dumbfounds me that she really comes out that blatantly about farming because it's not actually in a crisis at all. It is actually what it is and there are a whole lot of other factors when you work on a farm that impact on safety that no other industries have to deal with.

In the case of animals where a lot of injuries do occur, they've got a mind of their own and they do not read any health and safety plan," she said.

Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne

Federated Farmers health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne Photo: Supplied

Katie Milne said it remains to be seen whether there are direct links between long hours worked and accident and injury rates.

"There may be some links around farmers who work themselves and perhaps some of the hours in certain times of the year when people do have to work long hours because there are animals involved, you know perhaps some people do get a bit tired but those links are yet to be seen through good coroners reports and things like that. If we could get down some of that there might be some changes we could make."

And Katie Milne is confident Safer Farms which has been designed with input from farmers and the wider agricultural industry is the right way to change how farmers view risk and health and safety.

"It's going to be a good resource that farmers can tap into to get all sorts of information about health and safety and what the requirements are, with good guidelines and videos to back up some of those bits of information that are out there.

Also hopefully it means that there's going to be a change in culture, both on farm as farmers get a better education and training around health and safety but also with inspectors from WorkSafe and be more of an educational approach rather than a punitive approach so that we can actually get health and safety to be thought about on farm by the farmers in a way that they can respond too," she said.