10 Oct 2009

Testing of farm machinery imports urged

1:36 pm on 10 October 2009

A researcher has called for regulations for imported farm equipment to ensure it is safe for use on New Zealand farms.

A two-year study from the University of Otago has shown the rate of serious injury and fatalities on farms has remained high despite declines in other sectors over the past two decades.

The $400,000 project was the most comprehensive analysis of the rate of incidents for the agriculture sector to date, and aimed to develop new policies for those working in the industry.

It found long working hours, working alone, uncomfortable safety gear and time and economic constraints have all helped to keep the injury rate high.

Researcher Dr Kirsten Lovelock from the university's injury prevention unit says in most instances regulating to improve on-farm safety would be pointless and difficult to monitor.

But she says much of the machinery used in New Zealand is designed for North American or European terrain and should be tested when it comes into the country to see whether it meets any local specification.

Dr Lovelock says farmers spoke of getting into difficulty with large equipment such as tractors on terrain that the equipment wasn't designed to handle.

Another disturbing trend, she says, was the rate of hearing loss among farm workers and a reluctance to wearing ear plugs.

She says hearing loss is one of the country's most significant compensation costs, especially with an aging population.