Print this page
Monday, 20 June 2016 13:25

Plan properly before farm burn-offs

Written by 
WorkSafe's Agriculture Programme Manager, Al McCone. WorkSafe's Agriculture Programme Manager, Al McCone.

Farmers are being urged to thoroughly manage risks during burn-offs.

This follows a court case where a company was fined $72,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $107,000 following the death of an employee.

The employee died when he became trapped by fire in a gully during a burn-off on a 13,500-hectare high country station near Cromwell on 3 September 2014.

At the Alexandra District Court today, Northburn Limited was sentenced on a charge under the Health and Safety in Employment Act for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of an employee.

WorkSafe New Zealand's investigation found that Northburn Limited did not have an effective system for managing health and safety, and there was no documented plan in place for a burn-off - considered a high-risk task.

WorkSafe's Chief Inspector, Keith Stewart, says there were numerous practicable steps Northburn Limited could have taken to prevent the death of the employee. "There were various methods available to Northburn Limited, including using a sufficient number of trained people to carry out the burn-off. It is considered industry best practice that both sides of a gully should be burnt simultaneously.

The company did not identify a safe area for employees to retreat to, or an escape route, or that the fire was lit from an "anchor point", a safe area to start a fire from. There was also no adequate communication system, or a person acting as a lookout. The victim was not provided proper personal protective equipment.

The day of the victim's death was the second day he had been involved in a burn-off - he had no training for the task and he was at times left unsupervised.

"This incident is a tragic reminder that planning and the use of good information is essential for a safe and effective burn-off," says WorkSafe's Agriculture Programme Manager, Al McCone.

"For many farmers, burn-offs are a useful and routine tool to encourage growth. What's important is thinking about the risks and thinking about what to do about managing those risks.

"There is a range of guidance on burn-offs including The Landowners Guide to Land Clearing by Prescribed Burning from the national rural fire authority. There is also other information available on the Safer Farms website.

I also encourage farmers to get in touch with their local rural fire authority. They can provide advice and information specific to their area. Rural fire authorities do not charge for this service".

More like this

Safety mindset must change

WorkSafe NZ is calling on farmers and other rural businesses to treat health and safety as more than a compliance issue.


Dairy conversion - Otaki style

Near the Horowhenua town of Otaki, dairy conversion has taken on a whole new meaning. It’s not a case of converting sheep and beef farms to dairy farms, rather it’s a case of just converting old dairy sheds to country style tourist accommodation. Reporter Peter Burke visited two such conversions by two pretty special and creative women.


Bringing flat batteries to life

Given the absence of power outlets in many remote buildings on New Zealand farms, there’s every chance of ending up with a flat battery when away from civilisation for an extended period.

Kuhn bolsters mower range

Kuhn has bolstered its mower conditioner range with the addition of two rear mounted/ vertical folding models with a 3.10m working width.

2020 property market closes on a healthy note

Data release by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (REINZ) shows there were 175 more farm sales for the three months ending December 2020 than for the same period in 2019.


Expat workers ready for NZ

Dairy industry recruitment company Rural People Limited is seeing a huge increase in overseas interest to fill New Zealand farming…

Machinery & Products

Kubota ROPS tractors here

Kubota New Zealand product specialist Shaun Monteith says Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) tractors make up 30% of all tractors in…