Common sense prevails

by david on August 26, 2015

Quad bike safety is a major issue for NZ farmers Quad bike safety is a major issue for NZ farmers

IT APPEARS much of the angst and anger percolating through the farming sector over proposed changes to health and safety regulations may now have eased.
The parliamentary transport and industrial relations select committee – charged with reviewing the Health and Safety Reform Bill – has recently reported back and proposed changes, many of which the farming sector has been calling for.
As Fed Farmers health and safety spokesperson Katie Milne says, the changes to the bill go some way to recognising that farms are different from urban industrial workplaces. She applauds changes that mean farmers would not be held liable for the safety of people who – without the farmer’s knowledge — enter their properties and suffer an accident. It is now made clear that recreational users coming onto farmland would be responsible for their own safety – duck shooters, hunters, mountain bikers, anglers and so on.
It’s good that parliamentarians have listened to farmer concerns and put the responsibility back on recreational users where it always should have been. As Beef + Lamb NZ chairman James Parsons says, it is good to see the select committee process working and acknowledging farmer concerns.
BLNZ say key changes to the Health and Safety Reform Bill go a long way to clarifying the responsibilities of farmers towards employees and visitors to their farms. Other changes recognise that a farm’s family home is excluded as part of the workplace. This acknowledges the unique features of farms as workplaces and homes for rural families and applies good common sense to the issue of improving safety onfarm.
Fed Farmers and BLNZ concede there are still issues that need changing to improve onfarm safety, while taking into account the practicalities of modern farming. Both say they will keep working with the Government and officials to seek a practical outcome.
This pragmatic attitude is far different from the reaction by unions and Opposition politicians who claim the changes ‘gut the bill’ and disregard workplace safety. That is rubbish!
As WorkSafe NZ’s Al McCone says, “if a workplace has a culture of posting rules but ignoring them it will be held liable”. His encouraging advice to farmers is, “if you are doing things well under the current legislation, you will be doing things well under new legislation”.
But McCone also warns that workers must take reasonable care to ensure their own safety. So if a farmer tells a worker to wear a helmet and he doesn’t, and gets killed or hurt, the farmer will not be held responsible.
We hear the collective sigh of relief in the rural sector as common sense prevails.

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