New study highlights link between stress and farm accidents

A new study has highlighted the link between farm accidents and farmers who are stressed and have diminished wellbeing. 

Fifty-eight percent of recently injured farmers linked their accident to stress caused by the job, with a quarter of those saying it was a major factor, according to new ACC-funded research for Farmstrong, a rural wellbeing initiative. 

One of those involved in an accident was farmer Chris Biddles.

His life was turned upside down when his 500kg farm bike flipped while he was riding it on his Northland farm. His ankle was crushed in the incident and his right shoulder was broken in half.

Biddles blamed exhaustion for the accident, saying he's "bloody lucky" to be alive.

"I knew I was going to be four months in a wheelchair, but it could have been my life," he says.

"I was really tired and because of that I made a dumb decision. That's the danger of fatigue. You do something you wouldn't normally do."

The research identified exhaustion and lack of sleep as being all too common factors in farm accidents. It also found the general stresses of farm life, being isolated from family and friends and being unable to take breaks contributed to accidents.

Although the agriculture industry is the country's biggest export earner it is also one of the most high-risk sectors.

More than 20,000 people in the sector were injured last year, according to ACC claims data, with agriculture accounting for 9 percent of all work-related injury costs in 2019.

"Farmers spend their lives growing our food and milk and helping our economy, but they're not great at looking after themselves," says Paul Gimblett, ACC's head of workplace safety & levies.

Gimblett said ACC was partnering with Farmstrong to focus on educating farmers about the importance of getting enough sleep, eating right and getting some exercise to avoid stress.

Last year more than 18,000 farmers and farm workers participated in Farmstrong.