Farm Ireland

Tuesday 19 March 2019

Farming classified as 'most deadly occupation' in New Zealand

Martin Ryan looks at how other countries are tackling farm safety.


Quad bike and tractor accidents have become the most common causes of death on farms in New Zealand where farming is classified as "the most deadly" occupation, claiming, on average, a life every three weeks throughout the year.

In addition the statistics show that a farmer or an agricultural worker is injured every half an hour.

The NZ Department of Labour launched the Partners in Action pledge in 2014 to target a reduction in workplace deaths. It sets the challenge for all employers to achieve "zero harm" in New Zealand workplaces, and within the first few months 237 businesses had already made commitments to improving health and safety in their businesses.

Bruce Wills, president of NZ Federated Farmers said the ongoing toll of farm deaths makes very sad reading.

"No death is acceptable. We've got to do better. The culture needs to change in some farming communities. It's probably more the older group - the traditional, rugged, independent farmer," he commented.

Bruce reminds his fellow farmers that their occupation has always been a risky business, but that it is all the more reason why extra care must be taken by those who work within and in contact with the sector.

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Nearly $6m was paid out last year by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in settlement of claims arising from injuries caused to nearly 1,700 people while working on farms.

According to ACC, 13 farmers died in accidents on farms last year. There were 18,600 injuries on farms and the most common causes of injuries were poor handling of animals, quad bikes and farm machinery.

Keith McLea of ACC says that tractor, cattle and quad bike accidents now costs New Zealanders $12.4m a year in ACC claims alone.

The company has produced three safety booklets with useful tips on handling cattle, driving tractors and controlling quad bikes to help farmers avoid preventable injury.


A Farm Safety Partnership, with the theme 'Working Together to Save Lives' has been launched in Scotland urging farmers not to leave their safety to fate.

The Scottish government, National Farmers Union of Scotland, NFU Mutual Insurance Co and Scotland's Health and Safety Executive cooperating in a c0-ordinated campaign to significantly reduce farm deaths.

Since 2010, agriculture has become the most dangerous industry in the Britain, based on fatalities per worker, and research shows that 70pc of farm deaths involve falls, animals, transport and equipment.

The year-on-year number of fatal farm accidents in Scotland displays the same variable pattern as seen in Ireland and other countries. Fatalities which doubled from five to 10 between 2003-04 and 2007-08, halved in 2008-09 and increased to 10 again in 2010-11 and reduced to six for 2011-12.

Figures from the Scottish Health and Safety Executive show that over the last decade, 13 people have been killed on farms by falls; nine in incidents involving livestock; 26 when their vehicles overturned or they were accidentally struck by a moving vehicle; and six when they came into contact with working machinery or equipment.

Over a decade, moving or overturned vehicles accounted for 35pc of the fatalities, falls 17pc and animals 12pc, other accident with machinery 8pc.

In total 455 people have died on British farms over the last decade, equating to almost one death every week over the period. During the same period, 1,700 people were seriously injured in farm accidents. Figures published in the British Health and Safety Executive's report 'Fatal injuries in farming, forestry, horticulture and associated industries 2013/14' show that 31 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the year.

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