“Farmers will often say that health and safety is simply ‘common sense’,” says B+LNZ’s extension manager Mark Harris.
“But simply relying on ‘common sense’ is not preventing the many accidents that occur on New Zealand sheep and beef farms every year. Serious injuries and fatalities have a huge impact on our rural communities and many farmers know someone who has been affected by an accident.”
Accidents and injuries are happening on New Zealand farms throughout the year, but it is clear from ACC data for farm workplace injuries that there is a very significant spike in particular accidents during summer, often as a result of a high volume of machinery-related work and long days.
Good planning and good communication will help reduce the chance of things going wrong, and could reduce the severity of impacts when accidents happen.
“A great place to start is identifying the specific risks and seasonal risks on your farm, deciding how you will manage these and communicating that well to everyone who needs to know such as employees and contractors. This will help make your farm a safer place.
“It’s also a good idea to ensure maintenance is up to date and crush protection devices are fitted to quad bikes. Everyone using any vehicle fitted with seat belts should wear them, and if it is a side by side, ATV or quad, also wear a helmet.”
If contractors are doing work on farm, have a discussion with them in advance to ensure any risks to the contractors or others from their work, or other work carried out on the farm, will be managed safely.
You also need to ensure that farm buildings and any area where work is being carried out is safe for everyone, including contractors.
Children are injured on New Zealand farms each year, some fatally, and many of these accidents are related to farm vehicles. ACC figures show that more than 100 children are injured on quad and farm bikes annually.
“Farm families will want their children out on farm with them, particularly over summer,” says Mark.
“That’s always been part of farm life and always will be. However, it’s important to supervise children on farm and for young children that must be close and active. You should also have a rule that older children always tell you where they are going.”
Children lack the judgement, body weight and strength to handle full-sized vehicles like quad bikes. Children should only ride bikes that are appropriate for their age and height and are in line with manufacturer’s specifications.
While most farmers will already be aware of the following, it’s always useful over summer to reassess you’ve got everything in place for the age of children and the things they’re doing on farm. Tips include:
- If children are riding a smaller model farm bike, they need to wear an approved helmet and closed-in shoes and should always be supervised by an adult.
- Children should not ride on tractors, quad bikes or on the back of utes. Children should wear seatbelts/use age appropriate car seats in cars, utes and trucks, on farm and on public roads.
- Doors should be secured so children can’t get into areas they shouldn’t be and fuels and chemicals should be stored out of children’s reach.
- All machinery should have safety guards – but be aware that small hands may be able to get through guards.
- Always walk around farm vehicles before reversing and check children are a safe distance away before starting the engine.
- With children on farm, consider having safety fences around play areas, animal pens, work areas and water spots. Cover tanks and wells with child restraint covers or fill in disused ones.
“Make safety conversations part and parcel of everyday life on farm,” says Mark.
“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.
“If you lead by example, like wearing an approved helmet on a quad bike and wearing your seatbelt, 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.”
B+LNZ and WorkSafe NZ provide a range of online resources: