Farmers ignoring 'easy solutions' to keep safe on farm vehicles

The use of seatbelts on farm vehicles would reduce fatalities by up to 90 percent, says an industry safety advocate.

It's been a horror start to 2020 for farming accidents, with six people killed in workplace incidents on New Zealand farms in six days.

The deaths included two fatal quad bike crashes, a fatal accident involving a tractor and another with a side-by-side farm vehicle. 

General manager of the Agricultural Leaders' Health and Safety Action Group, Tony Watson said it was a tragic start to the year.

"Any time of the year, a fatality hits the farming community hard, but when it happens at this time of the year, there's an annual reminder that there is one seat empty at the Christmas table next year.

"We feel for those families," Watson told Rural Today.

He said vehicles were the leading cause of deaths on New Zealand farms.

"Pretty much every on-farm fatality involves a farm vehicle, it's either tractors, utes, side by sides or quad bikes."

Tony Watson is keen to see more farmers wearing seatbelts on farm vehicles.
Tony Watson is keen to see more farmers wearing seatbelts on farm vehicles. Photo credit: Supplied/Getty

Watson said many farmers were still ignoring safety messages.

"The problem is that we've got some really easy solutions, but for whatever reason, they are not just being uptaken generally across farms in New Zealand."

Despite the deaths, there had been some improvements.

"We are getting more rollover protection devices fitted to quad bikes and we know that if an operator is wearing a helmet and has a crush protection device on a quad bike, there is a better chance of survival."

He said the use of seatbelts on tractors, utes or side-by-sides could decrease fatalities by 90 percent.

"Most modern tractors will have seatbelts in them, but we also know that most farmers are resistant.

"If that was one thing for the sector to change, that would make a huge difference across the board."

Watson said farmers needed to get into the habit of farming safely, rather than thinking of health and safety as a separate issue.

"It's as simple as taking a few seconds and thinking about what could possibly go wrong and am I doing enough."

Worksafe last year announced a new position on the use of roll cages on quad bikes, saying they strongly recommend they be used.

A Wellington coroner also called for safety features to be made mandatory on quad bikes, as part of her findings into the death of a  Westport farmworker, Kaye Balance.

Coroner Brigitte Windley also recommended that a working party review work undertaken by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the issue of quad bike safety.