Take a moment to avoid injury
Injuries can have a huge impact on farm businesses but often it takes only a few moments to avoid them. Donna Russell reports.
Taking a few moments to assess a risk can save months of heartache, Training 4 Safety managing director Mike Lindsay says. The training company, based in Whangārei, runs a wide range of safety courses designed to keep workers safe in many industries. About 30 people recently completed an advanced two-day course in four-wheel-drive skills, one of many safety courses held during the year. Lindsay said that, while fatalities made headlines and were tragic, there were many rural workers who had near-miss stories. He said a lot of people talk about common sense prevailing, “but accidents tend to happen when people are busy and they don’t take five seconds to have a look at the risks involved in what they are trying to do”. “Injuries can have a big impact on a business, with workers sometimes needing months off work,” he said. “It’s really about people learning to make good decisions to keep themselves, their colleagues and vehicles safe by assessing potential dangers and challenges ahead of time,” he said. Worksafe records more than 8000 claims in Northland last year for all types of work, and more than 25,000 claims nationally in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries. The most risky months for injuries each year were in the winter. Not all about Covid Lindsay said there had been a big focus on Covid risks on farm but general farm safety shouldn’t be forgotten. Rural workers had to know how to operate a variety of types of machinery, some of which they might not use often during the year and which could lead to mistakes. “Farming has been a hard industry to break into as there still remains some No 8-wire mentality which has led to a generation of successful innovators. “But the downside is accidents.” He said forestry used to be renowned for danger but there had been a huge change in culture driven by the Government, ACC and industry to reduce the number of deaths and injuries. “Farming needs to change the culture as well.” Lindsay said rural people were often working on their own and out of cellphone coverage. “Sometimes an injury starts out as not that serious but becomes serious if they can’t get help promptly. “Preparing for a day’s work might involve telling someone where you are going to be working and how long you’ll be so they can raise the alarm if you don’t come back on time,” he said. Lindsay said Northland’s rural areas had difficult terrain and a lot of rivers, streams and drains. “Conditions can change quickly with bad weather and streams and farm tracks can become hazardous. Grass can grow to obscure hazards as well.” Lindsay said off-road driving skills were valuable for people working in a huge range of industries, including forestry, civil construction, farming, general contractors, utilities, electricity lines companies, telco companies, agricultural sprayers, delivery drivers and mechanical services doing onsite repairs. As well as an appropriate vehicle, it was important to have recovery gear on board such as towing ropes and strops. “Knowing the vehicle’s capabilities and limitations is vital so you know what it can actually do. “We teach about the limitations of each vehicle, water crossings, towing, recovery, winching and pre-start safety checks.” Recreational 4WD vehicles had also boomed in popularity over the past few years, with families enjoying Northland’s driveable beaches and dunes. “Driving on sand and in tidal areas can be hazardous. There is a lot of quicksand and people need to know how to get out of trouble.” Habits and attention spans He said younger workers learned quickly but had a shorter attention span. “They might not know how to communicate if they are having a problem and might try to fix things themselves instead of asking for help. “We have also noticed how communication difficulties with foreign workers can sometimes lead to accidents if English is a second language. “Different cultures might not listen to a female boss or might nod at instructions without fully understanding them. It’s been quite eyeopening,” he said. “Older generations of rural workers might need to break some bad habits as well.” Lindsay said workers might have farming or horticultural degrees but “you don’t know what you don’t know”. “People don’t know how they will react in a crisis, whether they will freeze or panic, if they have never learnt the practical skills to get out of trouble quickly.”