News and Events

Growing your farm’s health and safety culture

General Manager for Agricultural Leaders Health and Safety Action Group, Tony Watson, says more farmers are starting to make health and safety measures part and parcel of everyday work activities on their farms.
 

“A common theme now, when I talk with rural merchants, is that they tell me more farmers are providing inductions when they call in at farms,” he says.

“It’s not a long-winded process – but more farmers are expecting people to sign in and giving them a brief outline of what the risks are on the farm and the farm’s rules and safety expectations. Sometimes it’s just a chat, other farmers are using phone apps to make it easy to go over the things they need to. However they do it, it’s good to see that it’s happening.”

ACC statistics also suggest that more farms are developing a more effective health and safety culture. Fewer farmers died in workplace accidents in 2017 than in any year since 2009. The numbers of people injured on farms and needing more than a week off work is also declining. However, despite the downward trend, farm workplace fatalities in 2018 were back to the longterm average of 17 people per year.

However, while the figures are starting to go in the right direction, Al McCone, Engagement Lead Agriculture for WorkSafe, says the number of accidents occurring on farms is still too high.

March sees the highest number of ACC claims for falls from height on farms and among the highest figures for being trapped in vehicles or machinery, chemical incidents, muscular strains, hitting stationary objects and being hit by falling objects.

“Last summer, almost 550 farmers suffered injuries serious enough to require at least a week off work,” Al says.

“This period going into autumn is often a time when farmers are not as busy with stock and keen to get through a bunch of tasks and maintenance jobs before winter sets in. There are big jobs to do, such as harvesting the winter crops you sowed in summer – which means using large vehicles or having contractors on-farm.

“So it’s a good time to also take stock around health and safety. Think about the jobs ahead and what the risks might be. If you’ve got people working with you, talk with them about that – including any safety issues they’ve encountered in previous years or anything that’s changed – like new tomos.”

Al advises farmers to keep talking. “Before you or any of your workers do any job, take a few moments to think it through. What are the likely risks, how are you going to manage them and what are the best tools for it – be it machinery or a vehicle. Choosing the right vehicle for the job – for instance, if you are going to be towing a heavy load – and always wearing a seatbelt in a vehicle are two of the biggest factors in addressing serious accidents on farms.”

Tony says it comes down to a few minutes of your working day. “It’s about asking yourself: What could go wrong? What am I doing about that? And, is it enough?”

For guidance on developing good health and safety practices on farms, download the Keep Safe, Keep Farming toolkit from www.worksafe.govt.nz