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New best practice health and safety guidelines

Dave Gratton, New Zealand Tree Grower August 2006.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 promotes the management of health and safety issues in industry. The Act requires principals and self employed people who control places of work to take ‘all practicable steps’ to eliminate, isolate or minimise work place hazards.

Some new Best Practice Guidelines are coming on stream. Guidelines have been formulated with industry input and agreement on best practices for a particular job. If they apply to your operation then you should check them out so you are aware of your responsibilities as well as the best work practices to follow.

Safety management around electric lines

Many farm forestry plantations have power lines running either through or alongside them. The new guidelines Forest and Woodlot Safety Management around Electric Lines shows the best practices to follow when undertaking ground based harvesting, and for the siting of cable logging haulers around power lines.

The guidelines were formulated through NZ Forest Owners Association, the Forestry Contractors Association and power line companies. They can be ordered through Forest Industry Training at, website

Temporary traffic control on forest roads

These guidelines are at the final draft stage. They are being developed by NZ Forest Owners Association to minimise the risks from forest activities on traffic using private forest roads. They cover all aspects of temporary traffic control, from management and planning processes, to guidelines for warning sign layout and use. They represent the minimum standard of temporary traffic control on forest roads and provide a workable means of ensuring the safety of road users and workers.

The Road Controlling Authority is the organisation that owns or manages the roads. For public roads this means Transit New Zealand and territorial authorities. For private roads this may mean the forest owner, farmer, or utility owner such as an energy company, is the Road Controlling Authority.

Where a forestry road falls within the definition of a place of work, forest owners including farm foresters and their contractors need to consider and implement a hazard management plan. Then workers, other contractors and visitors are warned of danger while on the road.

The guidelines show helpful examples of sign layout for particular hazards. Once completed, the guidelines will be available through FITEC.

Farm airstrips

During the 10 years from 1993 to 2003 there have been 18 recorded fatal accidents of top-dressing pilots, from an annual total of around 100 operators. This equates to an 18% fatality rate over 10 years.

The guidelines have the full title Farm Airstrips and Associated Fertiliser Cartage, Storage and Application. They came about after a pilot death whose last load included damp lime which became stuck in the chute and could not be jettisoned. The result was the plane could not lift and hit trees. It soon became apparent that while leaky storage bins were at fault in this case, the wider issues of safety for all concerned from manufacturing, delivery over farm tracks, storage on site and airstrip layout and length needed to be considered.

Farm foresters with airstrips on their property should look at the Civil Aviation Authority website to view these guidelines – search under farm airstrips at


Safety reminders

Safe use of ATVs on farms

While the ATV guidelines have been out now for two years, people are still being killed and injured, especially when riding adult size quads. The full guidelines are available The following reminders are for all ATV users –

  • Guidelines say children under the age of 12 years shall not be permitted to drive a farm ATV
  • Guidelines says extra precautions must be taken to minimise the extra risks, and lists some options.
  • ATV designed helmets are on sale and these had a huge farmer input into the weight and design. When the guidelines were being formulated ACC statistics were that 23% of all ATV injuries were to the head.

Use of 4WD utilities on field trips

A number of farm foresters have mentioned to me recently that some field trips have left them badly scared when they were sitting on the deck of a utility.

If you are a driver on a field trip heading to the back of a property for the first time, you will not be familiar with the track. You may end up in a precarious position and assume you have no option but to press on and hope to get out without rolling the machine.

This is not acceptable. As the driver you are responsible for your passengers. Secondly, the landowner and organisers of the field trip have obviously not taken due care to keep you and others from the risks of harm.

Understanding the limitations of your machine when on a slope may keep you alive a lot longer. But give a thought to your passengers who may not have much to hold on to on the deck of your vehicle.

Organisers of field trips should download the checklist for field trips from the NZFFA website. This recommends that branch officials and landowners check out access and risks before any field trips, fulfilling OSH requirements and hopefully avoiding any accidents or injury.


Do we really need guidelines?

In a perfect world our common sense will keep us safe from harm, but today in farming and forestry we work longer, harder, and faster than ever before. Unfortunately repetition of task, tiredness and dehydration are part of the mix where accidents are sure to happen.

While it is up to each one of us to control these factors, it is when we are faced with situations outside our normal experience that problems occur. It is an old saying that we cannot be masters of everything, so being able to tap into the experience of others in sometimes complex situations can be worthwhile both economically and in keeping you safe.

Best practice guidelines are there to give you guidance.

Dave Gratton is the NZFFA’s Health and Safety representative and a member of the Wellington Branch.  


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