Major focus on reducing farm accidents involving vehicles
A major drive to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities involving vehicles on farms is underway. Almost 90% of farm fatalities involve working in, and around vehicles and machinery.
Worksafe NZ research shows there is almost always a vehicle involved when someone dies as a result of a farm workplace accident. Over the next three years the regulatory authority will be focusing strongly on reducing the critical risk of working in and around farm vehicles.
As part of this focus, Worksafe inspectors will be discussing safer use of vehicles with farmers during assessments.
“Engaging farmers, to tell us what works for them, will be crucial,” says Ms Pugh, deputy General Manager Assessments. “Farmers will know safer ways of doing jobs, which equipment is safest in different situations, and what engineering solutions are out there, that make vehicles and machinery safer. In addition, we will be working with the sector on new and improved guidance, standards and training to help farmers make the right decisions.”
Al McCone, Sector Lead for Agriculture, says farmers need to always consider if their vehicle is the right one for the job. Using the safety mechanisms provided with those vehicles is also essential. “Operator protective devices and the use of seat belts in vehicles are two key areas farmers can reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring. Among front seat passengers and drivers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45% and the risk of serious injury by 50%. People not wearing a seatbelt are 30 times more likely to be ejected from a vehicle during a crash.”
While roll over protection has contributed to a decrease in fatal injuries, most of the recent tractor fatalities could have been prevented by the driver wearing the seat belt.
“This focus isn’t about telling farmers how to farm but helping them make the right decisions when using vehicles, so they can go home to their families safe and well at the end of every day.”
Julie Dee, whose husband Paul died in an ATV side-by-side roll-over close to their Waihao Downs home, near Waimate last year, supports the greater focus on vehicles. “This change in seatbelt culture on farm will not happen unless a change of thinking in our culture occurs and farm bosses step up in their responsibilities and expectations for their farm. Changing the concept or wearing a seat belt on farm from one of annoyance to one of feeling they are ensuring they get home safely is key. The unforeseen might not happen on their patch – but if it was to happen, if a seat belt culture has already been established, it might just save a life.”
Katie Milne, President of Federated Farmers commented: “Any time a vehicle is involved in the work we do, we need to be aware of the elevated level of risk. Because vehicles are part of everyday farm work but the numbers show that they are the biggest risk to our safety, and the safety of our staff and family, so it’s crucially important we don’t get complacent or lose focus. The same goes when working with animals – as all farmers know even the ones that aren’t unruly can catch out the complacent. Person vs cow, bull, sheep, or deer can end in a win for team “beast” in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful.”