NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles

The New Zealand Department of Labour (DoL) has announced a period of public consultation on its OHS guidance on the safe use of off-road vehicles.  The process will include a review of “Safe Use of ATVs on New Zealand Farms: Agricultural Guideline” publication.

Interestingly the DoL says  it

“is looking to extend this publication to apply to the agricultural, forestry and adventure tourism industries.”

There is a potential for a considerable broadening of OHS issues but this may be hampered by the scheduling of the public consultation.  The DoL public commentary period closes on February 13 2010. Both Australia and New Zealand are in Summer holiday mode and many companies are closed down for several weeks in January or operate on a skeleton staff.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has commented on this trend for short consultative periods over the Christmas break previously.

The DoL is looking for information in the following areas:

  • “broaden the scope of the document to include the forestry sector and to include a range of farm vehicles
  • include the amendments to the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 that came into effect in May 2003;
  • reflect current good practice operating in within the agricultural and forestry industries in New Zealand;
  • ensure that the guidance material provided around this issue is consistent with other New Zealand documents; and
  • reflect recent New Zealand and international research to ensure that New Zealand guidance documents reflect international best practice.”

Curiously the DoL differentiates between “good practice” and “best practice”.  Which one equates to compliance?

The last bullet point has the greatest potential for a bunfight between quadbike safety advocates and bike manufacturers.  New Zealand has already had experience with this conflict and is well-placed to balance the arguments.   The issue of quadbike safety has continued to be one of having to judge between conflicting evidence and it can be said that the NZ inquiry will be lively.

The competing evidence being discussed in Australia seems to have reached the stage where the value and integrity each other’s evidence is being disputed.  This process is important to ensure valid findings from the evidence but to a large extent the dispute is also distracting from the big picture of making the use of the vehicles less harmful.

More information of the New Zealand DoL public consultation is available online.

Kevin Jones

5 thoughts on “NZ announces inquiry into the safety of farm vehicles”

  1. My wish for 2010 is that OHS regulators spend less time finding out what everyone wants and spend more time gathering together the best thinking on safety issues; and telling us what they have found. Public consultation can end up being a hand-wringing exercise. The punter needs to know what the regulator thinks about a safety issue, and what sort of solutions will get the thumbs up. All the rest is safety white noise. More
    White Papers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_paper), less Green.

  2. I hope that people will respond to the NZ consultation on their publication – Though it stops way short of initiating an enquiry into ATVs, which is long overdue in Australia as well as New Zealand.

    The ATV manufacturers seem to have an enormous (disproportionate) amount of clout with governments at all levels. For some reason the regulators shy away from dealing with the fundamental issue – designer and manufacturers’ duties – ATVs are intrinsically unstable due to a high centre of gravity and therefore unsafe for the purposes they are put to. Small loads (ie rear mounted spray tanks) slopes, uneven ground or small obstacles, unsteady acceleration can all result in the vehicle flipping or rolling.

    I’ve had to investigate ATV incidents, but most go unreported through OHS regulators or Workers Comp providers because the vehicle was used by a person on a family-owned farm, not an “employee” just a family member, often in the course of work, but also when the ATV is being used as a recreational vehicle (usually on a farm, often by a visitor with limited experience operating an ATV).

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