THE SAFER Farms initiative, recently introduced by WorkSafe NZ, is a timely one.
Since 2008, 120 people have been killed working on farms in New Zealand: four times more people died on farms last year than in forestry or construction. Figures show that someone is killed on a farm every fortnight; this is a shameful record and it must change.
Improving farmer awareness and understanding of risks involved, along with education on how these risks can be minimised and/or managed, is a more effective and better approach to changing these appalling statistics than dishing out heavy-handed fines.
While farmers may strongly believe in personal responsibility, rather than having ‘big brother’ telling them what to do, they have an inherent intolerance of bureaucracy and attending to endless compliance documents. Still they need to clean up their collective act.
The stats don’t lie. Far too many farmers, farm workers and their families are killed and/or hurt on our country’s farms every year. There is no excuse for the poor safety record these statistics show. Any initiative that saves lives and protects people should be strongly supported.
While many farmers may disagree with some recent interpretations of the Health and Safety Act, like the carrying of quad pillion passengers and heavy fines for not wearing helmets, it is clear the ‘carrot’-only approach is not working. The option to implement the ‘stick’ – fines – is a necessary one.
Yes, farming can be a dangerous occupation, but farmers and their staff must take all necessary precautions and be aware of the risks involved to mitigate the risk of accidents/and or deaths on farm.
Let’s hope more farmers are becoming more aware of the health and safety issues in their workplace. As Peter Jex-Blake, Federated Farmers Gisborne/Wairoa provincial president, said at the Safer Farms launch in his regionlast week – a change in culture is needed. “It requires a change in mind-set; which will take a while, but with the right approach, we will get there.”
Work Safe Minister Michael Woodhouse is right when he says, “The number of deaths and injuries on farms won’t be reduced by the Government sending out more inspectors. Only farmers can directly influence this toll.”
Hopefully Safer Farms will help them do this by finding health and safety solutions that work.