Keeping safe on farm during summer

Summer means heavy workloads on farms, from weaning lambs and calves to hay and silage making.
Monday, 2 December 2019

There’s close work with animals, many large vehicles coming and going, contractors on farm and heavy use of tractors and machinery.

At the same time, you may also have summer visitors, and children wanting to be out playing or helping out.

“All these factors carry health and safety risks,” says Mark Harris, lead extension manager at Beef + Lamb New Zealand.

“Vehicles and machinery feature in almost 90 per cent of fatal workplace accidents on farms and accidents requiring more than a week off work.

“Recognise vehicles as a critical risk on farm and establish good ongoing practice around using them.  Always select the right vehicle and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for the job. A quad bike might be ideal for nipping round but not for towing a heavy load, take those few minutes to get the tractor.”

One of the main causes of fatalities involving tractors are where it hits the operator or another person because it hasn’t been properly braked, or through the tractor rolling, with the driver not wearing a seatbelt.

Most fatal tractor rollover accidents in recent years would have been prevented by the driver wearing a seatbelt on a Roll Over Protection (ROP) fitted tractor.

Contractors

‘It’s a good idea to consult with your contractors ahead of any work, to establish clear roles, responsibilities and actions and discuss risks -  it’s as simple as a phone or email conversation.”

Children on the farm

“Naturally, farmers want their children, grandchildren and other young visitors to enjoy the farm with them, it’s the Kiwi way – but vehicles also pose a major risk for children,” says Mark.

“Don’t let children ride on tractors, quad bikes or on the back of utes. Children should be in car seats or seat belts when in cars, utes or trucks, including on private roads.

“Always walk around a vehicle to check children are a safe distance away before starting the engine – and never leave vehicles unattended with the engine running or the key in the ignition.”

Children lack the judgement, body weight and strength to handle full-sized farm vehicles, like quad and other farm bikes. According to ACC figures, more than 100 children hurt themselves on these vehicles annually. About 28 are hospitalised and tragically between three and six are killed.

“When walking around the farm with children, identify risks together,” says Mark.

“Make sure children wear high visibility clothing and teach them to wash and dry their hands after touching animals. Water, be it rivers, creeks, troughs, dips, tanks, dams or ponds, all pose risks.

“Where reasonably practicable, set up safety barriers around play areas, animal pens, work areas and water spots. Cover tanks and wells with child restraint covers or fill in disused ones. Lock doors and ensure agri-chemicals are stored safely out of children’s reach. Small hands may also be able to reach through machinery guards.”

Tie spare tractor wheels to walls or lie them flat. Ensure bikes children ride are appropriate for their age and height.

“Above all, ensure children are well supervised,” says Mark. Even the most sensible child can do something impetuous.

“It’s important safety conversations are part and parcel of everyday life on farm.

“If someone is getting out of the tractor, check they’ve put the brakes on. If they’re hopping into or getting out of machinery remind them to always use three points of contact and buckle up.

“If you lead by example, like wearing an approved helmet (PPE) on a quad bike and wearing your seatbelt in vehicles where provided, your team and your kids will learn that’s the way to do things – and you will be setting them up for lifelong good safety habits.”