Still too many quad bike fatalities, safety expert says
Too many New Zealanders are still being killed or injured in quad bike accidents, a Taranaki safety expert says.
WorkSafe statistics for the first half of the year show there have been nine agricultural workplace related deaths, three of them involving quad bikes.
Of the remaining five fatalities, four involved tractors, one involved a forklift, and one an animal.
Bronwyn Muir, managing director of Taranaki-based company OnFarmSafety New Zealand, said many of the injuries and deaths could have been prevented if health and safety on-farm was taken more seriously and conversations about good practice encouraged.
"It's about time health and safety systems became part of everyday activities and are incorporated as part of your usual farm work routine," Muir said.
"Farm workplace teams need to figure out good ways to encourage health and safety systems."
Changes didn't need to be costly or complicated - simple documented systems could be put in place to support dialogue and planning, Muir said.
Her call for better communication on-farm reflects that of WorkSafe's agriculture sector leader Al McCone, who last week said farmers and contractors needed to communicate better with their employees to ensure they were aware of risks on farms.
"A simple way to positively change the culture is to get workers more involved with farm decisions around health and safety. It's the workers who are out there in the paddock or shed seeing first-hand what the conditions and potential risks are," McCone said.
Regular conversations with everyone on the farm should cover ever-present risks involved in handling large animals, visiting vehicles and large machinery, as well as changeable hazards affected by weather or different seasonal work.
"It might have been safe to take the farm bike up that hill yesterday when it was dry, but it may not be today if the grass is wet," McCone said.
Fewer farmers were being issued with WorkSafe enforcement notices or facing prosecution but Muir said complacency was creeping back in.
Nationwide, WorkSafe prosecuted 10 farmers in 2014 and eight in 2015. Last year there were six agricultural prosecutions, of which four were successful.
Over the same period, the number of notices, warnings and letters issued to farmers fell from 550 to 328.
However, Muir warned that the 'She'll be right' era was over and the regulator was coming down hard on businesses that did not have suitable health and safety systems in place.
"These [prosecutions] are still following on from accidents that have happened under the 1992 Health and Safety legislation," she said.
"Just remember that the new legislation's penalties will be much harsher and tougher on workplaces that haven't carried out their due diligence and put systems in place."
Injury statistics show 845 people are injured on quad bikes on farm each year, 190 of these seriously hurt and requiring significant time off work. An average of five New Zealand farmers are killed in work-related accidents annually.