Federated Farmers Health and Safety spokesperson, Katie Milne says she is concerned about the impact of the $40,000 fine for a Marlborough farm couple, who weren’t wearing helmets and carrying children as passengers.
The Court case, and subsequent ruling, runs the risk of alienating farmers who will see the fines as heavy handed and excessive. It will make it so much harder to get the right health and safety messages across if the primary sector is sceptical as to what is occurring.
“No one wants to see serious accidents and deaths. We need good information and evidence in the public domain that not only drives the identification of major health and safety risks, but subsequently the priorities, education and persuasion to change behaviour.”
“There needs to be a real focus on good outcomes.”
Katie Milne says Federated Farmers has recently been working closely with WorkSafe New Zealand to improve farm safety.
“WorkSafe have been saying to us that they want to avoid heavy handed actions and put a high value on education and persuasion. We will be talking to them about how this is done more effectively.”
“Farmers can improve their safety performance. And we will not be fooling ourselves into thinking that only other people have accidents or that there is no inherent risk in farm environments or work.”
She concluded “Fundamentally, safety is enhanced by concentrating on outcomes, increased awareness, and changing behaviour. This sort of public issue is just going to get farmers’ backs up and make them feel picked on – not make them safer farm operators, which is what we want.”
Quad bikes are dangerous and the couple had received several warnings though there are two sides to the story of those warnings:
. . . But Carlson – who became the first woman to win the West Coast Top of the South Farm Manager of the Year in 2010 – says the fine is unfair and accused WorkSafe of not doing its job properly.
“I don’t think $40,000 is fair,” she told Radio Live.
“If you put it in perspective with other offences like drink driving, where you are putting other people at risk … it’s ridiculous and out of proportion.”
WorkSafe says even after a prohibition notice was issued, Carlson was caught twice riding her quad bike without a helmet and on the second occasion she had two children with her.
Carlson said the agency has been inconsistent in the advice it gave her.
“If they had done their job properly we’d never be in this position,” she said.
It wasn’t the requirement to wear helmets that she disagrees with, but the way it was enforced, said Carlson.
“They want to take people to court to make an example of them.
“I totally see their point, that helmets have a place on a quad bike and I think everybody should be wearing it.”
WorkSafe NZ spokesman Francois Barton said it could not ignore Jones’ and Carlson’s wilful refusal to meet their legal obligations. . .
Whatever the advice, $40,000 – $20,000 each – does seem to be a very steep fine.