21 Aug 2015

Minister, WorkSafe at odds on farm safety

3:03 pm on 21 August 2015

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse's decision to classify sheep, beef and dairy farming as low-risk in terms of health and safety flies in the face of advice from WorkSafe NZ.

Organic Jersey cow.

The Government has classified sheep, beef and dairy farms as low risk. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Under the Government's Health and Safety Reform Bill, any workplace that falls into the high-risk category will be required to have a health and safety officer - but Mr Woodhouse has controversially classified sheep, beef and dairy farms as low-risk.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

But WorkSafe New Zealand told Mr Woodhouse in a briefing in October 2014 that agriculture was the worst performing industry in the country in terms of health and safety - with 20 deaths in 2013, more than forestry, construction and manufacturing combined.

Mr Woodhouse was also told the dairy, beef and sheep industries were the most dangerous sectors of all, with the highest accident and fatality tolls within agriculture.

The Government estimates 130 New Zealanders will be severely injured on dairy farms this August alone, as calving takes place.

But Mr Woodhouse has defended the decision to classify dairy, sheep and beef farming as low-risk.

"Look, all I can do is let the facts guide me," Mr Woodhouse said.

"The facts are, when adjusted for the size of the industry, while there are a lot of injuries in farming, they fell below the threshold and below many others that are quite risky," Mr Woodhouse said.

In the last seven years, ACC has received more than 53,000 injury claims resulting from work accidents on dairy farms - more than 7000 of those workers were injured severely.

There are just over 12,000 dairy farms in New Zealand.

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - by injury severity and month (2008-2015)

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - by injury severity and month (2008-2015) Photo: SUPPLIED

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - top five injuries by month (2008-2015)

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - top five injuries by month (2008-2015) Photo: SUPPLIED

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - top five causes by month (2008-2015)

Dairy workplace injuries: ACC claims - top five causes by month (2008-2015) Photo: SUPPLIED

The Labour Party's workplace relations and safety spokesperson, Sue Moroney, said it was farcical that the Government was classifying the country's most dangerous industries as low-risk - while classifying industries such as worm farming as high-risk.

"It's no surprise, everyone knows of the dangers that are inherent in the agricultural sector and that dairy and beef farming are one of the main contributors to that," Ms Moroney said.

Ms Moroney said Mr Woodhouse had been forced to exclude dairy, sheep and beef farming from the high-risk category because of pressure from the farming community.

The Government's decision to classify dairy farming as low-risk comes as Worksafe New Zealand is running a campaign warning that 1000 dairy farm workers will be injured this month, when calving takes place - 130 severely.

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