Six die in New Zealand workplaces in January
26 February 2009
The Department of Labour is investigating the deaths of six people in New Zealand workplaces during January.
January is one of the most dangerous months in New Zealand workplaces, and agriculture and forestry are the most high risk industries, says the Department of Labour’s head of Workplace Health and Safety, Craig Armitage.
Two of January’s fatalities occurred in the agriculture sector, while one was in the forestry sector – accounting for half of the month’s fatalities.
In the seven months from July 2008 to January 2009 the Department has investigated 25 workplace fatalities – 32 per cent (8) were in the agriculture sector and 16 per cent (4) were in the forestry sector.
Mr Armitage says that of the 12 fatalities so far in those two sectors, nine occurred while operating all terrain vehicles (ATVs), tractors or other machinery.
He says off road vehicles are the leading cause of death from injury on New Zealand farms and should be used with great care.
Promoting the safe use of off road vehicles and ATVs in particular is a major focus of the Department’s Take Care campaign that aims to cut the number of fatalities during the high risk summer/autumn period. A television commercial urging people to “take care of yourself so you can take care of your family” began screening this month and will be followed up by radio commercials.
Mr Armitage says it is important that people riding ATVs have received adequate training.
“Never let anyone use an ATV unless you are sure the person is old enough and experienced enough to do so safely,” he says.
It’s also important to follow the manufacturers’ maintenance recommendations and ensure that checks are made daily – one simple step like checking the tyre pressure with a special low pressure tyre gauge could save a life, he says.
And when riding the ATV the rider needs to be aware of the risks at all times.
“Quite often an accident will occur when the person’s guard is down and concentration levels have dropped – many fatalities involving off road vehicles occurred when they were in general use and not in core farming activities.”
“So even if you are carrying out a simple task like driving on the home paddock to check a gate, take care and stay safe,” Mr Armitage says.
“Think about what will happen to the farm if you are badly injured or killed and stay safe this season.”
A few simple guidelines can help keep people safe. These are:
- Always wear a helmet and appropriate footwear
- Identify safe areas to ride and avoid steep terrain
- Remember ATVS are not designed to carry passengers or heavy loads
- Reduce speed to a safe level for the conditions
- Do a registered course to increase driving skills
- Always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations
- Daily checks should be carried out as recommended by the manufacturer
- Under-12 year olds are not allowed to ride farm-sized quad bikes.
- Children between 12 and 15 shouldn’t ride them unless stringent conditions listed in the ATV Safe Use Guide (that can be viewed on the Department of Labour website) are met.
For more information about taking care
To the journalist: please note that health and safety services formerly referred to as Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) should now be referred to as the Department of Labour.