August sees the highest number of ACC claims for on-farm workplace injuries caused by falls that happen, not from a height, but on the same level.
Recent ACC annual statistics show nearly 850 cases where workers are injured in such falls on farms. The only farm-workplace injuries with a higher occurrence are muscular stress and being hit or bitten by an animal. Injuries caused by vehicle incidents are the next on the list.
Wet, icy or muddy ground, and slippery conditions in calving sheds are likely to be significant factors in the seasonal spike of these injuries.
“A fall on the same level may not sound particularly harmful, but analysis of injuries resulting in more than a week off work indicates they are a significant factor,” says Al McCone, Sector Lead, Agriculture, for WorkSafe New Zealand.
“Body stressing injuries such as lumbar sprains and also ankle sprains, which are often associated with falls, feature as a major cause of lost-time work injuries across all farming sectors.”
While there is nothing anyone can do to control the wet weather and even though floors inevitably get messy during calving, farmers can identify fall risks and take steps to mitigate them.
Research on slips, trips and falls in the dairy sector found 83 per cent of respondents reported wearing the same footwear – namely gumboots - on all parts of the farm, for all tasks. Many said they kept new gumboots for the milking shed and ‘demoted’ worn ones to general on-farm tasks.
The primary reasons given for not changing into lace-up boots was the need to keep feet dry.
“Gumboots absolutely have their place on farms,” says Al. “But using footwear with ankle support and good tread will aid prevention of ankle injuries and likely reduce the risk of slips and falls.”
Ensuring surfaces are kept clean will help address slip risks, as will slip-resistant surfaces like rubber matting.
Other factors to consider include providing handrails on steps, ensuring areas are kept clear of obstacles and providing good lighting.
“Above all, talk with your team about the risks posed by trips, slips and falls,” says Mr McCone. “Get an ongoing conversation going, ask everyone to say what may have caused them to slip, trip or fall and what things they have noticed that pose fall hazards – and have a team discussion around what the solutions could be.
“And never forget the importance of setting an example. If you are swapping over your boots and taking the time to clear obstacles or spills, it is more likely to become a habit for everyone. That means you are less likely to have people laid up injured during those tough winter months when you need them most.”
For further details, download the Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls on Farms guide at worksafe.govt.nz.
Article supplied by WorkSafe