9 Oct 2017

Fall in farm worker deaths 'encouraging'

3:05 pm on 9 October 2017

The number of deaths and serious injuries in the farming sector have dropped this year.

Quad bike, quad bikes

Photo: 123RF

Figures from WorkSafe show that this year, up until 1 October, there have been nine deaths in agricultural workplaces, compared to an average of 15 deaths for the same period each year from 2014 to 2016.

Statistics show that the agricultural sector has had almost four times the number of workplace deaths than forestry, construction and manufacturing since 2011.

WorkSafe's Agricultural sector leader, Al McCone, said the three-year rolling average since 2012 show the rate of deaths and serious injuries have dropped for forestry, but the numbers for agriculture have risen.

However, he said it was encouraging to see that this year the trend was going the other way.

At this stage of the year there would normally have been four or five tractor fatalities, he said.

"There's a real similarity here with what's happening on the road... The majority of these fatalities could have been prevented by people wearing a seatbelt.

"But this year there has only been one tractor fatality to date. The same with [quad bikes] - normally up to now we'd four or five quad fatalities, and we've had three."

While there were fewer serious accidents and deaths so far this year, it was not necessarily a trend, Mr McCone said.

"So next year there could be more... We're being very cautious here but it does seem like there is a start of a downward trend."

Last year Health and Safety rules were tightened up to try and reduce the number of deaths and accidents.

As a result, farmers now had to formally identify and manage risks on farm, and have a health and safety plan checked off by an inspector who visits the property.

'Significant change in behaviours'

Mr McCone said, anecdotally, the push to educate farmers and make them more aware of health and safety risks could be paying off.

Farm employees were seeing a change in what their employers think about health and safety, he said.

"There's a significant shift in the number of bosses who praise people for acting safely.

"What we're now seeing is when [workers] say, 'I'm not going to do it cause I don't think it's safe,' the boss is saying, 'Yeah that's good, well done.'"

Thedisconnect between staff and management was closing and more health and safety training was being carried out on farms, he said.

The rolling average of accidents, injuries and ACC claims had been going up, but this could be because people were better at reporting incidents, Mr McCone said.

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