Health and safety a major issue

By the start of September this year, the Department of Labour had recorded a total of nine fatal accidents in the agricultural industry.

This accounts for nearly 50 per cent of the fatal accidents across all industries, with the other 11 fatalities being spread across the industries of forestry, recreation, construction, accommodation and food services and manufacturing.

In October, statistics were released that showed that 2011 had slightly improved upon 2010's statistics for on-farm injury claims, however the total number is still very high.

With 28,100 claims for last year, Jeanette Maxwell, a health and safety spokesperson for Federated Farmers, says "there is still a lot of work to be done to get all New Zealand's farmers taking workplace safety seriously, as we still outstrip all other industries in the workplace injury and death statistics".

She emphasises the need for "everyone in New Zealand's primary sector to realise that the old 'she'll be right, it won't happen to me' attitude is letting us down, not only costing our farmers billions of dollars in lost productivity annually, but also placing a huge emotional strain on many rural families".

Highlighting the fact that there is often little access to relief cover when a farmer is hurt, Jeanette says that making farming safer requires education and action.

She acknowledges that farming has some unique workplace challenges, especially as farmers often have very large areas, with a range of terrain, stock types and machinery to consider.

Harvey Leach, Taranaki's President of Federated Farmers, says "Research in New Zealand shows that involving staff in their health and safety lowers injury rates and costs. Injury prevention is dependent upon a continuous improvement, commitment, communication, review, plan and action."

Federated Farmers has developed an Occupational Safety and Health manual that is specifically designed to cover farming situations to address this and the hope is that next year will see a further decrease in work related injury statistics for the industry.

- Stratford Press

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