Companies join forces to help reduce fatalities on farms

Dargaville-based Ag-Tech Industries Ltd and Otago’s Zero Harm Farm Ltd join forces to help reduce fatalities in quad bike accidents

Last year, out of a total 42 workplace fatalities, 15 involved agriculture workers. Already in 2019, three have lost their lives, making the agricultural sector one of the most dangerous places in which to work in New Zealand.

Ag-Tech Industries and Zero Harm Farms are partnering to try and help reduce quad bike accidents  

Quad bike deaths make up a quarter of all farming fatalities, with 34 in six years. But less than five percent of the serious incidents involving quad bikes are reported and the number of farmers being issued with enforcement notices or facing prosecution by WorkSafe New Zealand is declining.

Conversely, rural insurer FMG says that on average, it receives a claim for a quad bike rollover or accident every day. Over the past five years, it has received 2000 claims for quad rollovers and accidents, worth more than $8.1m. Meanwhile, ACC reports 10,000 injuries involving quads over five years, 10% of which occurred to children.

In a recent LinkedIn article, Tony Watson, GM of the Agricultural Leaders Health and Safety Action Group said that "one area that stands out is quad bike rollovers and the failure to fit a device that can help by reducing the chance of being pinned under the quad bike."

Making a difference

Weston Stewart

Dargaville-based Ag-Tech Industries Ltd and Otago’s Zero Harm Farm Ltd both provide solutions that aim to change the fact that agriculture is this country’s most dangerous industry.

Ag-Tech Industries manufactures the ATV Lifeguard®, a roll bar or crush protection device that is mounted on the rear carrier of a quad bike, providing space underneath in the event of a rollover.

Zero Harm Farm offers a web application that enables agricultural businesses to comply with Health and Safety obligations, thereby reducing workplace injuries.

The system has 6000 users and co-founder Mark Orr says the businesses using it are developing excellent safety cultures.

But, he says, "The challenge is the overwhelming proportion of agribusinesses still doing absolutely nothing to manage workplace risk."

Mark Orr

Both he and Ag-Tech Industries’ GM Operations, Weston Stewart, believe there is little or no enforcement of the legal requirement to notify Worksafe New Zealand of near miss incidents, which leads to low levels of investigation and a missed opportunity to collate data as to why these incidents occur.

"It is hard to see how or why injury and death rates will improve should this continue to be the case," Orr says.

In 2017, a Stuff article stated that attitudes to farm safety were changing. It based this on a reported reduction in the number of farmers being issued with enforcement notices or facing prosecution.

However, Mark says, "We see no evidence that reducing enforcement and prosecutions is resulting in fewer injuries or deaths in agriculture."

Weston adds, "There seems to be a serious lack of research and ‘real world data’ in regard to the effectiveness of Operator Protection Devices on quad bikes, so we’re on a mission to help provide this information as it’s crucial to helping reduce fatalities."

Together, Zero Harm Farm and Ag-Tech Industries are giving away $100,000 in digital farm-safety solutions, which makes it easy to collect vital near miss incident data to help better understand and reduce serious injuries and deaths on New Zealand farms.

They are offering a free 12-month subscription to the Zero Harm OH&S application valued at $459 for each customer purchasing a LifeGuard OPD product before the end of July.

Stewart and Orr say the aim is to increase awareness of the high death toll from quad bike accidents in particular and on farms in general.

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