Farming deaths nearly doubled and serious accidents rose sharply in 2010.

The number of people who died on farms went from nine in 2009 to 17 last year while serious accidents rose 15 per cent to 312, according to Department of Labour statistics.

Those numbers have been labelled "bitterly disappointing" by Federated Farmers.

Its health and safety spokesman Donald Aubrey saaid a spike in deaths and injuries over summer drove the rise.

"We were actually one step forward at the end of November only to end the year two steps back. December, continuing into January this year, has been extraordinarily bad months for farm safety."

The Agricultural Health and Safety Council would be discussing reasons for the increase in farm deaths with the Chief Coroner, Mr Aubrey said.

He called for more investigation of the circumstances behind the accidents to inform new farm safety measures.

"This summer spike may be caused by long daylight hours seeing farmers working while tired. It's an aspect that is worthy of further research.

"We want to help get to the bottom of things to put in place practices and procedures to practically minimise harm."

Mr Aubrey hailed a decrease in serious accidents on quad bikes as a positive sign amid the grim 2010 statistics.

Although All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) fatalities were the same as in 2009, eight less people were seriously injured over 2010, he said.

"It's bittersweet for Federated Farmers that in the midst of a bad year for overall farm safety, we're seeing some positive signs for ATV safety."

About 120 people were killed on ATVs in the past 10 years, and a recent corner's report highlighted safety concerns.

Filipino beekeeper Jody Dean Santos, 21, of Masterton, died from a massive skull fracture days after he was "catapulted" off a quad bike he was riding at work in August 2008.

Wellington coroner Ian Smith recommended the department immediately investigate the mandatory use of helmets, roll bars and lap belts on all quad bikes.

But department national support manager Mike Munnelly said while it supported compulsory helmet wearing, to ride a quad bike safely it was absolutely necessary to be able to stand up and to shift body weight for balance - or "active riding".

Mr Aubrey said Federated Farmers and the Agricultural Health and Safety Council would work with coroners, the department and ACC this year on workable safety solutions which would help bring statistics down.

Full rollover protection and harnesses were not a solution for the New Zealand farm environment, he said.

Mr Aubrey said he would invite Mr Smith to a farm to see how ATVs were used.

- NZPA with NZHERALD STAFF