Publication:

Stratford Press - 2021-07-21

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Stress on job leads to accidents

The Country

Farmers are great at looking after their animals and their farms, but they also need to look after their most important asset on the farm — themselves and those who work in the business. That is the message from ACC and Farmstrong as farmers all over New Zealand meet the workload of another demanding winter season. Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest export earner but it’s also one of our most high-risk industries. In 2020, 22,796 farm-related injury claims were accepted, which came at a cost of $84 million to help people recover. That is more than 60 farmers getting injured every day. In all, ACC has spent more than $383m on farm-related injuries in the past five years. Waikato (22,652) in that time has had the highest number of farmrelated injuries, ahead of other prominent farming regions Canterbury (17,761), Manawatu¯-Whanganui (10,641) and Otago (9659). The three most common types of farming injury in 2020 were soft tissue injuries (66 per cent), laceration, puncture or sting (17 per cent) and fracture / dislocation (6 per cent). While many businesses adopted remote working in 2020 due to Covid19, life for farmers carried on as normal and there was no break from ACC the long hours. Farmstrong is a rural wellbeing initiative for farmers and growers to help them ‘live well to farm well”. It urges farmers to share their stories and to look after themselves as well as they do their pasture and livestock. In 2016 ACC became a strategic partner of Farmstrong, joining FMG and the Mental Health Foundation. Last year ACC increased its investment to $3.5m over the next five years. The investment in Farmstrong is one of ACC’s injury prevention investments in the rural sector. Other investments include a subsidy on roll bars or crush-protection devices for quad bikes. ACC also partnered with the NZ Shearing Contractors Association and Federated Farmers to develop Tahi Nga¯tahi — an online training platform for woolshed workers. “Farmers spend their lives growing our food and milk and helping our economy, but they’re not great at looking after themselves,” says Virginia Burton-Konia, ACC head of workplace safety. “We’re proud to be partnering with Farmstrong and its focus on simple tools like getting enough sleep, eating right and getting some exercise. “Farmers need to get better at putting in systems to look after the most important asset on the farm, themselves and those who work in the business.” An ACC-funded study for Farmstrong shows 58 per cent of recently injured farmers linked their accident to stress associated with farm work. A quarter said it was a major factor. Exhaustion, lack of sleep, the stresses of farming, being isolated from friends and family, and being unable to take a break all add to the risks that a farmer or farm worker will have an accident, the research shows. ACC has just launched a injury prevention campaign called Preventable. The campaign lays down a wero (challenge) to all Kiwis to stop and take a moment to assess the risks at home, work and play. “We are challenging all New Zealanders to have a ‘Hmmm’,” says Burton-Konia. “It’s important to take a moment to think about what they are about to do and think about what could go wrong, to prevent injury.”

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