WorkSafe launches investigation

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 17/01/2014

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@devlincolleThe 2-year-old girl who drowned in a pond on a dairy farm at Otapiri in Central Southland has been named.

Irene Nath was reported missing by her family about 7.30pm on Tuesday.

Emergency services attended the call and after an extensive search she was found at 8.40pm in a duck pond on the farm. CPR was performed but she was unresponsive.

WorkSafe New Zealand yesterday confirmed it would investigate the incident, as it occurred in a workplace.

A WorkSafe spokesman said while fencing of waterways such as duck or effluent ponds was not a requirement in all situations, farms were workplaces and subject to the provisions of the Health and Safety in Employment Act, which requires hazards to be identified and managed appropriately.

Those in charge of farms must put safety first for every person on the farm. Ensuring children's safety was no different, the spokesman said.

The aim of a WorkSafe investigation was to identify why people were harmed, what could have been done to prevent it and how employers and industries could prevent similar injuries in future.

Where investigations reveal breaches of the act, enforcement action may be taken.

Federated Farmers Southland provincial president Russell MacPherson said farms contained multiple hazards such as dams, farm machinery and livestock but trying to eliminate every hazard was a physical impossibility.

In response to a toddler downing in 2009, Federated Farmers' Variable Order Sharemilking Agreement was amended with specific provisions to help keep children safe on farms, he said. "This means a farm house on a dairy property must have stock proof fences. What's more, there must also be a safe place for children to be in when their parents are at work . . . fencing has the added advantage of defining the home from the workplace."

A dairy effluent pond should have at least five wire fences, with netting preferably and even a "hot wire", he said.

"Speaking as a father, this is a most unimaginable tragedy that will raise painful memories for those farming families who have lost children in similar circumstances.

"I know this family will be going through hell. Every fraction of every single second will be replayed over and over again. This is just horrible for all involved and my hope in speaking about it is to show that it is a tragic accident in every sense of those two words."

According to ACC's Injury Statistics for [2012-13], 20 children under 14 died in accidents inside a home. "These recent deaths must serve as a wake-up call to all Kiwi families and not just the farming ones," MacPherson said.

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Farmers for Farm Safety Ltd director D'Arcy Palmer said tragedies like the recent deaths of two young children on Southland farms could be avoided with the proper safety procedure.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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