A Hastings man who was killed this week after being trapped by his clothing in a harvester at his gardens at Whakatu has thrown the spotlight on workplace safety, with the agricultural sector still considered one of the most dangerous occupations.

Coroner Peter Ryan released name suppression for father of four Guan Hong Su citing the case as being in the public interest for the lessons that may be learned by others in similar businesses.

After forestry, the agriculture and fishing sectors still led the statistics on workplace deaths and fatalities, said WorkSafe sector lead agriculture Al McCone.

According to WorkSafe figures there were five deaths in Hawke's Bay between 2013 and 2016, three of those involving quad bikes.


McCone said that in New Zealand between 2000 and now, about 90 per cent of all agriculture-related fatalities involved vehicles and machinery, and over the past three to four years over half those fatalities could be attributed to tractors and quad bikes.

"Operator protective devices and the use of seat belts in vehicles are two key areas where farmers can reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring.

"Among front seat passengers and drivers, seat belts reduce the risk of death by 45 per cent and the risk of serious injury by 50 per cent. 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," he said.

As well as not being vigilant about such safety measures, he said another contributor was the culture in New Zealand workplaces where there was an attitude of getting on and doing the job.

"It's about getting on doing stuff, especially with farming where there is so much to do, daylight hours are limited and the machinery is not always perfect for the job."

He said that people often took risks in farming, and it was important to change the culture to enable people to stand up and say such risk-taking was not acceptable.

"Workers need to be able to communicate about risk and have almost explicit permission from the boss to say something."


Such thinking was behind a new WorkSafe Use Your Mouth campaign to prepare all workers to stand up and say a risk is not worth taking and businesses to accept and support such a stance.

Federated Farmers Hawke's Bay president Will Foley said another area that should be focused on was reducing or managing the stress farmers were under.

"WorkSafe need to be looking at this seriously - they are looking at things post-accident, but if there was more focus on preventing stress which is what often leads to poor decision making you could fix some of the issues."

He noted that he had seen increasing use of side-by-side vehicles as opposed to quad bikes, which were safer for carrying passengers and more stable overall, but had not seen any figures yet of whether use of these vehicles was lowering accidents and fatalities.

He had also seen increasing use of helmets and people taking more care to communicate what they were doing on the farm to others.

Central Hawke's Bay farmer Peter Butler said such communication was part of his farming operation in Tikokino where there were six of them using quad bikes and side-by-sides.
Recently he said all these vehicles had been fitted out with EPERBS (Electronic Positioning Emergency Radio Beacon), and they all wore helmets.

In addition they had a written health and safety plan which was available to view at most of the farm buildings.

When it came to the quad bikes he said his attitude was: "They are a hell of a good servant but don't let them become your master."