Putere farmer and 2018 Hawke's Bay Farmer of the Year David Danks says that common sense and self responsibility would go a long way to improving the statistics for workplace accidents and fatalities in the agricultural sector.

Danks has managed Monarae Station, a sheep, beef and deer farm, for the Pam Torbett Charitable Trust for the past 27 years and employs a father and son to help him out on the property.

Because of increasing industry workplace requirements, he said health and safety had become a real focus in the past 12 months.

As well as having a written health and safety plan there were practical measures he and the team took to look after themselves and each other, he said.


"We are holding shed meetings once a month to tick off any danger areas, and on the farm if we go to work at different times we always put a note on the board of who is doing what so we are aware where each other are."

They are equipped with walkie-talkies and he said when work was finished for the day they met up at an agreed place on the farm and came home together.

"If we have split up to move stock we meet there so if someone doesn't show up we know to go back and look for them."

According to WorkSafe, quad bikes were a factor in 25 per cent of on-farm fatalities, but that figure could be improved if people took more care, Danks said.

"A lot of guys push their luck - they don't want to get off their bike to have a look over a ridge - they think they can ride around it.

"They might get there but then they get into trouble on the way back when they might be sitting on the downhill side."

He said that while there were some cases that were true accidents, other situations were preventable, and that any death was devastating.

"Maybe people are inexperienced or have just got a bit cocky."


As well as treating the equipment with respect, he suggested the training for using such vehicles could be improved and made more practical.

That included teaching people what it actually felt like to be angled to the point of going off-balance, which people often didn't recognise was happening until it was too late.

While measures such as wearing helmets on bikes could be hard to adapt to for older farmers, it was automatic for younger farmers coming through, and were good for keeping the head warm, he added.

Overall he noted that while agriculture and forestry had unfortunately developed a bad name because of an increasing spotlight on accidents in the sector, progress was being made.