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WorkSafe has been notified of four fatalities on New Zealand farms in September. Two involved tractors in Te Kuiti and Hastings, another involved a child in a dairy shed in Opotiki, and last Monday there was a quad bike rollover in Central Hawke’s Bay.
Investigations have been opened into all four incidents.
The two tractor incidents appear to have involved tractor drivers feeding out on steep terrain. Initial reports indicate that the tractors may have slipped causing the drivers to lose control.
WorkSafe understands the dairy shed incident involved a piece of machinery. Last week’s quad bike incident occurred on steep terrain.
The investigations taking place will inform an accurate picture of the events but WorkSafe engagement lead for agriculture Al McCone, says immediate lessons from the events should be quickly heeded by others in the industry.
“This is the time of year where a lot of work is taking place. Farm work consists of a never-ending list of tasks and constant reprioritisation as weather, commodity prices and other factors outside and inside the farmer's influence change.
“It is a time of variable weather and growth, and variable ground surface conditions. Slope surfaces are especially tricky at this time of year.
“There is also a shortage of contractors and some farmers will be doing tractor work that normally a contractor might do with equipment better suited to the task.
“We cannot let these challenges contribute to loss of life or injury. The people with the most power to influence this are those on the ground each day doing the work.
McCone says seatbelts should also be worn when doing farm work.
“Mistakes happen and your seatbelt might be the difference between a sore neck and a broken one”.
Understanding the role children play in a farming business is also critical says McCone.
“Too often we are seeing children fatally injured in the workplace. That extends beyond the farm into other industries as well. From experience, we know that keeping an eye on them can be hard in a busy workplace.
“If your kids need to go to work with you, have a system in place that isolates them from where work is happening or where risks may be present.”
McCone’s recommendations for reducing the risk of harm on farm this season include:
- Prioritising tractor and machinery maintenance. That should include attachments, good tyres and brakes.
- Tired people make mistakes. Do difficult things earlier in the day - save the easy stuff for later.
- If your vehicle is fitted with a seatbelt – you should be using it.
- Consider installing crush protection on your quad bike.
- Ensuring that the vehicle is safely stopped and brakes are engaged before leaving the vehicle.
- Ensuring that machinery with moving parts has the appropriate guarding fitted and in use.
- Don’t be afraid to seek assistance when you need to – neighbouring farmers are always more than willing to offer a lending hand.