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OSH looks into five farm fatalities

11 January 2005

OSH looks into five farm fatalities

The deaths of five people in four farming accidents over the Christmas break has the Department of Labour’s occupational safety and health service concerned.

All of the fatal accidents in the two weeks between Christmas Eve and 5 January involved machinery, and three involved vehicles and sloping ground.

The first death occurred on 24 December, when a Tirau farm worker lost control of the ATV he was riding and was crushed. He was spraying weeds on a steep slope in wet conditions when the ATV tipped on to him.

Five days later, a Gisborne farm worker was killed instantly when he was dragged through a rotary hoe he had been cleaning with a water blaster. The hoe was running at the time.

On New Year’s Eve, a Motueka contractor died after the tractor he was using to mow grass on undulating land fell 4m into a creek. The creek edge was obscured, and he was thrown from and trapped under the tractor. He wasn’t wearing a seat belt.

On 5 January, in Outram, a brother and sister died after the ute they were in rolled 160m down a steep slope and into a gully. They had been with their father, who was grubbing thistles on the farm at the time of the accident.

OSH agriculture advisor John Hudson said all five fatalities were being investigated by OSH. They were a timely reminder about the dangers of machinery.

“Farm machinery and vehicles can be very unforgiving at the best of times, and tragically machinery has been the common denominator in all these deaths.”

Mr Hudson said vehicles should always be parked across the slope, in gear and with the handbrake applied, to minimise the risk of rolling. ATVs lose traction in wet conditions, and needed to be handled with extra caution. All machinery needed to be switched off before being cleaned or repaired. And using a seat belt in hilly situations could mean the difference between life and death.

Crop and animal care doesn’t stop during the holiday season, he said. “This is a very busy time of year for many farmers, and adding to that work pressure can be family and holiday obligations and weather conditions as well. Our advice is to take the time to work safely and be around for your family next Christmas.”

ENDS

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