News and Events

Safety around harvesting

The holidays are over, the relatives have gone home and the kids have gone back to school – and now it’s time to turn attention to late summer harvest.


Agricultural Sector Lead for WorkSafe, Al McCone says that usually means bringing the heavy machinery out of the shed – or contractors bringing heavy machinery onto the farm. “With large machinery come large risks, which need to be managed well. February in New Zealand sees high rates of workplace accidents in agriculture, including people being injured by hitting stationary objects or being hit by moving objects,” Al says.

The month also has the highest rate of incidents of people being injured through being trapped in moving machinery or equipment. “Farmers are towing heavy loads and moving large plant around farms where there are people and obstacles such as power lines to irrigators. These might be jobs you have done every year for decades but research shows there is an increased likelihood of accidents and injuries.”

It is important you choose the right vehicle for the job. Quads and sideby- sides are not designed to pull heavy loads. It is also important to take advantage of vehicle safety features. Always wear a seatbelt – most of the recent side-by-side and tractor fatalities in New Zealand could have been prevented by the driver wearing a seatbelt.

“Forewarned is forearmed,” Al says. “Consider walking the route heavy machinery is going to take, to look out for any potential risks – narrow areas where it might be difficult to manoeuvre or low hanging branches or dried up ruts in the ground.” Al explains that anyone operating heavy machinery needs to be trained and experienced enough to do the job. “No matter how busy you are and keen to get the crops out of the ground before it rains, don’t be tempted to let someone new take charge of machinery before you’ve ascertained for yourself that they are fully competent – even if they say they are.”

Drive shafts should always be well maintained, fitted correctly and have the proper guards, which are kept in good condition and are used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. PTOs can rotate at speeds up to 1,000rmp and have been the cause of a number of fatal accidents. It is important never to wear loose clothes when operating machines powered by PTOs.

There are overlapping duties between farmers and contractors to manage health and safety risks. Farmers’ responsibilities include making sure that any risks from farm work (or previous work) are reasonably managed to protect the health and safety of the farm and that farm buildings and areas where work is being carried out (apart from the farmhouse) are safe for everyone.

Contractors must make sure any risks from their work that could affect the farmer, farm workers or other contractors on-farm are reasonably managed.

“Achieving that should not be complicated,” Al says. “It’s as simple as having a face-to-face or over the phone meeting before work starts to reach a common understanding and establish clear roles, responsibilities and actions. It will also prevent any gaps in managing health and safety risks.”