WorkSafe warns of spring fatalities spike


Last year saw five fatalities in the agricultural sector alone in just two months – with this season already off to a bad start after a person was killed in a tractor incident

Vehicles continue to be the primary source of harm in farm fatalities. Last month a person was tragically killed in an incident involving a tractor on a farm outside of Oamaru. It is understood the victim was trimming hedges at the time.

WorkSafe Manager for Regulatory Practice Brent Austin strongly urges farmers to consider four key things to avoid a repeat of 2020 as they head into the busier months on farm.

  1. Look at how you are managing fatigue on farm – tired people make mistakes
  2. If your vehicle has a seatbelt, you should be wearing it – almost half of vehicle-related deaths on farm could be avoided if seatbelts were used
  3. Install crush protection on your quad – in many incidents, someone is crushed or unable to escape due to the weight of the bike, contributing to fatal or life-changing injuries
  4. Don’t make assumptions that new staff or those new to the sector know what they are doing around large animals – provide necessary training until you are satisfied that they are competent

“Workplace incidents don’t discriminate between those with experience and those without,” says Austin.

“Mistakes can be made by even the most experienced operators. We know the pressure is on farmers, particularly considering labour shortages and the need to employ inexperienced, younger or older people to fill the gap, but now is not the time to cut corners where safety may be compromised.

“Lastly, but vitally important, safety responsibility sits with everyone. Make sure everyone gets involved in sharing their concerns and ideas for making the farm a safer place.”

Five people have died on New Zealand farms in workplace incidents so far this year.

Date Age Region Accident Type
10/08/2021 Otago Tractor incident
04/04/2021 18 Otago Farm vehicle rollover
22/01/2021 66 Otago Ride-on tractor rollover
16/01/2021 89 Hawke’s Bay Quad bike rollover
15/01/2021 54 Manawatu-Whanganui Two-wheeled farm bike

Spring fatalities in 2020 included the following.

Date Age Region Accident Type
28/09/2020 33 Hawke’s Bay Struck by rolling quad bike
17/09/2020 7 Bay of Plenty Crushed by backing gate
16/09/2020 43 Hawke’s Bay Struck by rolling tractor
11/09/2020 79 Waikato Tractor roll over
01/08/2020 64 Taranaki Fell from quad bike

There was a total of 20 on farm fatalities counted by WorkSafe in 2020.