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Controlled burn-offs

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16 October 2014 - Safety alert



WorkSafe NZ has been advised of a fatality in North Canterbury this week involving a controlled burn-off on a farm.  This is the second farm-based controlled burn fatality reported to WorkSafe in the past two months.

WorkSafe NZ is investigating both incidents.


WorkSafe NZ advice

Controlled burn-offs are an important part of the farming cycle and at this time of year, they are common farming practice. Any fire, but particularly an open-space burn-off, is very unpredictable. Wind shifts and sudden increases in wind speed are particular dangers to be aware of and plan for. 

It is critical there is an extensive safety plan including personal escape pathways for any burn-off.  Communication systems which are effective in the very noisy environment created by a fire are also a vital safety tool.

Farmers should consult their local fire authority for advice and guidance before beginning a burn-off. There may be a requirement for a burn plan, and depending on the fire season status, a permit to burn may also be required.



WorkSafe provides guidance to the agriculture sector on rural fires.

The National Rural Fire Authority has information and there is information about survival techniques [4.0 MB PDF].


Ona De Rooy
General Manager Health and Safety Operations