Farmers are happy to see that workforce issues are identified as a hot topic in the National Party’s ‘Primary Sector Discussion Document’, released today.
Statistics have shown that farms over the summer period hold an extra degree of risk for children which has led Federated Farmers and WorkSafe New Zealand to call for special vigilance over this period.
Because of their very nature farms pose risks to children that are not present in other, more controlled, environments but these risks are manageable and many accidents on farms are preventable given the right preparation.
Although the hazards are varied statistics show that vehicles are of particular risk.
WorkSafe agricultural programmes manager, Al McCone says kids love playing around vehicles.
Like the Safekids' driveway safety campaign says: 'Check for me before you turn the key'. Walk around the vehicle first and check children are a safe distance away before starting the engine. A few seconds of extra care will prevent what could be a tragedy.
Of workplace fatalities since 2000, eight of the 14 deaths involving children aged between five and 15, occurred when the child was operating the vehicle. So it's absolutely vital that if children are operating any vehicles they are suitably capable of operating the specific vehicle.
For younger children, under five, the majority of fatalities occur when they are accompanying their parents on the farm and even for younger children there is a spike over the summer period.
McCone says it's about farmers changing their thinking from that of working alone, to having the kids around while they do their tasks.
"Of the 10 deaths of children under the age of five, seven involved the child being near the parents working. If you are used to working alone, and get engrossed in a task or problem, then it is easy to forget about the kids. Farmers need to be aware of this and take steps to ensure the kids stay top of mind," he says.
Taking practical steps like fencing ponds, covering pits, locking chemicals away and being aware when using hot water in dairy sheds will reduce the risk of accidents.
Awareness and vigilance is the key to preventing serious harm accidents on farms.
For more information check out websites www.saferfarms.org.nz which has specialist advice for keeping kids safe on farms or to look at the safe driveway campaign go to www.safekids.org.nz.
• Nick Hanson is a Federated Farmers policy advisor.