Older farmers more at risk from accidents

WorkSafe New Zealand wants shearing sheds to have a warrant of fitness to cut injuries which happen in the central North ...
PHOTO: DAVID UNWIN/FAIRFAX NZ

WorkSafe New Zealand wants shearing sheds to have a warrant of fitness to cut injuries which happen in the central North Island.

Older farmers have more accidents says WorkSafe farms ambassador Richard Loe.

The former All Black and sheep and beef farmer from Canterbury was at Central Districts Field Days in Feilding talking to farmers about safety. He had been in the job for 18 months.

He talked about a former farmer who was 78 and went fishing, riding side saddle on his quad bike, with no helmet.

Worksafe's Safer Farms ambassador Richard Loe at the Central Districts Field Days.
FAIRFAX NZ

Worksafe's Safer Farms ambassador Richard Loe at the Central Districts Field Days.

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Safer Farms ambassador Richard Loe and WorkSafe's Agriculture sector leader  Al McCone.
SUE O'DOWD/FAIRFAX NZ

Safer Farms ambassador Richard Loe and WorkSafe's Agriculture sector leader Al McCone.

He said older farmers should be more careful but often were are not.

"We realise we were lucky to get away with things.  You have a look at the stats and the 50 to 65 age group is the worst of  all."

In 2014 there were over 23,000 ACC injury claims from agriculture workplace injuries, said Al McCone, the manager  of the agriculture programme for WorkSafe New Zealand.

"And of those more than 9000 (or 39 per cent) involved someone aged 50 or over."

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He said it  was most pronounced in viticulture ( half of the accidents were aged more than 50 or over) and sheep and beef farming (57 per cent of the ACC accidents were 50 years plus). 

"This age group accounted for 53 per cent of all fatalities in the period 2013-2015," McCone said.

As a proportion of the injury incidents for their age group, people over 55 had a higher proportion of claims for injuries suffered from slips, trips and falls on the same level.  Otherwise the leading injuries are as for other age groups; contact with animals or muscular stress when lifting, carrying or putting down injuries.

He said often older people carried more responsibility for the business and corresponding higher levels of stress, which along with fatigue could affect decision making.

But Loe said farmers could and did change.

"If it is good enough for me to change and toe the line, then anyone can."

He said everyone had a right to come home safely and farmers were no different.

"I often say to our farmers  be it horticulture, viticulture, dairy, beef, or sheep, if we are wanting to sell our produce then we have to be compliant with health and safety.  If you do your whole compliance thing with those selling our produce, then what else have you got to be worried about."

Loe said a year ago farmers threw things at him, but now they have taken on board health and safety more and are not so worried about it now

He said it was not one thing that created health and safety, but farmers had to look at their whole farm system, ag-chemicals, tractors and quads bikes included.

"If you have a look on your quad bike, somewhere there will be a sticker saying those under 16 should not drive it, and you should wear a hemet."

The fear of WorkSafe that farmers had was not warranted, Loe said.

"If they are compliant, they have nothing to worry about."

Meanwhile WorkSafe New Zealand has kicked off a safe shearing project to try to cut the 50 per cent of shearing injuries in the central North Island.

Its Central Region inspectors are running a series of "woolshed WOFs" through to the end of April and need to hear from farmers, contractors, and shearers to track down farms and sheds to visit.

"Our inspectors want to visit as many sheds as possible to talk through WorkSafe's Safe Sheep Shearing guide and checklist with all those involved in what goes on in the shed," McCone said.

"Inspectors want to talk with as many people involved with shearing as possible – farmers, contractors and shearers.  Communication between all parties about work-related health and safety in the woodshed is vital to ensure everybody stays as safe as possible.".

Inspectors will liaise with farmers to talk through what they want to do on the visits.  They will then re-visit the sheds again over next summer to check off any improvements they see.

"Inspectors aren't going to be turning up anywhere unannounced – this project is about everybody working together to improve health and safety outcomes for shearers.

"However, if on visits inspectors do see anything that sticks out relating to the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, they will bring it up and discuss ways to deal with it," McCone said.

Suggestions for farms and sheds to participate should be sent to: elaine.cowan@WorkSafe.govt.nz 

 - Stuff

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