People major factor in accidents

Worksafe New Zealand chief executive Nicole Rosie (centre) says health and safety is about good...
Worksafe New Zealand chief executive Nicole Rosie (centre) says health and safety is about good leadership. PHOTO: TONI WILLIAMS
Farms are dangerous places, but people make them dangerous, Agricultural Leaders Health and Safety Action Group general manager Tony Watson says.

Farmers need to be encouraged to ask "What could possibly go wrong on my property? What can I do about it? Is it enough?" he said.

Mr Watson was in Mid Canterbury recently, along with WorkSafe New Zealand chief executive Nicole Rosie to speak to farmers about the importance of on-farm health and safety.

They met Foundation for Arable (FAR), Arable Y and Women in Arable members at the Wakanui property of Maxine and Eric Watson, near Ashburton.

The agricultural leader said farm deaths featured highly in national figures; at least 18 people were killed on farms last year, which was not the true figure, as deaths such as quad bike accidents could be linked to road toll figures, and effluent pond deaths to drownings.

Business owners have all got a responsibility, so discussing what you can do on-farm can only help, he said.

"As a risky sector, if we don't fix it government might enforce it," he said.

Ms Rosie, from a fifth-generation Gisborne farming family, is quick to point out she is not a bureaucrat and previously worked for Toll and Fonterra before stepping into the shoes at WorkSafe three years ago. Her next role, recently announced, will be to head up the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) which she will start next year.

She said New Zealand was well behind the rest of the world with its workplace accident rates, where 15 out of 100,000 workers were injured or killed. In New Zealand people were seven times more likely to die, or be injured at work.

Although there had been improvements of late, such as those in the forestry sector which was 63 out of 100,000 and had improved to 50 out of 100,000 workplace accidents, there was still more to do.

"Health and Safety is not about compliance," she said.

"It's about leadership, and a high performing team of people at the centre."

She said it was important workers not only saw employers following health and safety rules, but were supported to follow the rules.

She said there was little point in telling someone to speed up production and `don't worry about that' when it came to safety procedures. The Pike River mine explosion, where 29 men were killed, was one such example, where warning procedures were ignored repetitively well before the explosion happened.

She said with little information in the agricultural sector around health and safety, farm owners needed to consider the on-farm risk management needed for machinery and activities which happened on farm that could kill or seriously maim; or could hurt but may not kill.

They should take into account vehicles and machinery such as balers, tractor power take off shafts quad bikes and utes, falls from heights, confined spaces and causes of injuries such as back, foot and ankle injuries, as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and standard operating practice.

"If you have safety requirements that make sense, people will work with those," she said.

Engineering controls should be used, like airbags, seatbelts, traction control and roll bars, as well as safety gear like helmets, steel-capped shoes or gloves.

"It's nothing to do with common-sense, it's core business to do this stuff right," she said.

It was unwise to rely on people to not make the mistakes, as everybody had driver licences but there were still a lot of accidents.

We need to consider what happens when people make the mistakes and how to reduce them, she said.

"You should plan for the accident because you can't plan for the variables, such as how tired you are, or ground conditions. That's the mind set area."

Mr Watson and Ms Rosie were joined on their visit to the group by author and health and safety advocate Harriet Bremner, whose partner, James Hayman, died in a farm machinery accident in the Hakataramea Valley, South Canterbury, in January 2017.

Ms Bremner was available to talk to people.

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