Reducing risks when using vehicles on the farm

26 February 2018

WorkSafe New Zealand is putting the spotlight on cutting the number of vehicle-related serious injuries and fatalities in agriculture.

After three years, WorkSafe’s Safer Farms is familiar to many in the sector. It’s about making health and safety part and parcel of daily farm work.

Our statistics show farm vehicles or machinery are involved in 89% of serious injuries or fatalities, so we are homing in on vehicle use on the farm with our Safer Vehicles, Safer Farms campaign.

Be very clear, it isn’t new staff or untrained people who are being killed. The most experienced best-trained people in the agriculture sector can and do have accidents. Our statistics show the majority of people seriously injured or killed in quad bike or tractor incidents are aged 50 and over.

A fatal incident does not just impact the person killed. It has a ripple effect for their family, their community and the business they owned, managed or worked for.

This campaign is about more than health and safety; it is business survival too. What will happen to the farm if you are killed? Is the answer enough to make you put on your helmet or seatbelt?

Anecdotally, the prevailing view seems to be “that’s not going to happen to me”.

That’s despite people knowing full well what can happen if they take “shortcuts” on a vehicle – such as not wearing a seatbelt while doing jobs that require getting in and out. Many farmers still cut corners because that’s what they have always done and got away with. But it only needs one small thing to go wrong and your luck runs out.

The fact is farm vehicles and machinery are a critical risk for agricultural workers because of the potential for serious injury or death. And we know from incident reporting people who wear seatbelts have a greater chance of survival.

It makes sense for all farms to identify and know their property’s critical risks, then they can focus attention on dealing with the dangers so they are appropriately managed. The hierarchy of controls to manage critical risks is:

  • elimination
  • substitution
  • engineering

Going forward, the way our inspectors talk to you about vehicle use will change. While we have always asked about vehicles, maintenance and training, these conversations will now focus on the vehicle as a critical risk. Every inspector will be asking the same questions.

This means your responses will help us form part of the solution. Knowing what works for you in reducing critical risk is crucial. We need to know what it is going to bring about change.

WorkSafe will be sharing the direction we are taking with vehicles – in particular, quads and tractors – and encouraging the sector to be part of finding new solutions.

In December 2017, WorkSafe invited a number of people from the agricultural community, including farmers, suppliers, trainers, and vehicle and machinery distributers, to help us understand the issues around vehicle use and some of the steps that could be taken to manage these. We will be sharing the outcomes of this meeting and further actions in the near future.

The bottom line is there is plenty of information out there outlining the risks in farming. Now it’s time for farmers to step up to reduce those risks on their farms – and WorkSafe will be supporting them wholeheartedly.

Article supplied by Worksafe