Agriculture Sector Action Plan to 2013
Making a real and sustained reduction in the amount of injury, disease and death in a particular industry is no mean feat – especially when you’re talking about one as diverse and complex as agriculture. For a general description of the industry, see Appendix 1. Agricultural work involves a variety of hazards, and countries all over the world have tried to reduce the persistently high rates of fatality, disease and injury that can result.
The agriculture sector has one of the highest levels of workplace injury, disease and fatalities. This action plan sets out how the agriculture sector and the government will work together over the next two years to reduce the work toll (see box below).
It is one of a suite of five sector action plans and an occupational health action plan developed under the New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Strategy’s National Action Agenda 2010-2013.
Workplace injury, disease and death in this country take a terrible toll on everyone, at all levels.
There are costs to Government, industry and the wider economy in terms of lost productivity and an additional financial burden on finite resources.
But more importantly individuals, families and communities have to directly cope with the effects of a workplace injury or illness – and these can be far-reaching, going way beyond money.
The cost is just too high no matter which way you look at it, and that’s why we refer to ‘the work toll’ in this document.
We know that there are many hazards contributing to injury or disease. Some are unique to particular sub-sectors, for example, eye injuries sustained during fencing. We do not wish to diminish the importance of any of these hazards, but we have to recognise we can’t do it all (or rather, all at once). We need to concentrate our immediate efforts on a few specific areas over the next couple of years if we are to make a real difference to what we all accept is a much larger and more complex problem. Priorities will be reviewed and re-shaped as necessary after 2013.
This action plan focuses on goals relating to four areas that feature most consistently in injuries and fatalities across the sector, or are seen as having wider effects on the health and safety of those making their livelihood in the industry.
These areas are:
- use of agricultural vehicles and machinery
- the physical and mental health/wellbeing of agricultural workers
- slips, trips and falls, and
- animal handling.
Based on ACC claims data from 2005-2010, it is estimated that these four areas collectively account for at least 50% of all injuries, at least 49% of the most serious injuries, and at least 59% of deaths in the agriculture sector.
Precise figures for the work toll in this sector are hard to quantify. One reason is the lack of comprehensive data about illness and disease arising from specific work practices (for instance, animal handling), or broader work factors (such as stress and fatigue). In addition, the connection between ill-heath and work is not always made (or systematically recorded) by both sufferers and medical professionals. Finally, there is cause and effect: stress and fatigue, for instance, could well make someone more likely to neglect basic safety rules, making an injury more likely. These ambiguities blur the statistics.
However, we do know that at the most serious end of the mental health/wellbeing spectrum, an average of 25 farmers commit suicide each year. This statistic caused widespread alarm when presented by the Chief Coroner to attendees at the Farmsafe Zero Injury Industry Forum held in March 2011, and was one of the main reasons for including a specific focus on farmer wellbeing in this action plan.
 For the purposes of this document, Agriculture is the farming of dairy, sheep, beef cattle, other livestock (including deer, pigs and poultry), crops (fruit, vegetables and grains), beekeeping, grape growing, and associated services (such as shearing and fencing). It does not include Forestry, which has its own Action Plan.
 ACC data represents injury claims for which compensation has been made. Claims data is not a complete or accurate representation of the number of actual injuries occurring – as some claims may involve multiple injuries, and other injuries may have happened but no claim has been placed.
 ACC entitlement claims are used as a proxy for serious injury. Entitlement claims are for injuries that require weekly compensation of earnings and/or rehabilitation and special treatment costs.
 These figures are an approximation only – they are based on claims for illness and injury that relate to Agricultural vehicles and machinery, slips trips and falls, and animal handling. It is not possible to quantify how many injuries are due to work-related factors such as stress and fatigue, so the true proportion is likely to be higher than stated.