Farms contain multiple hazards and higher than average risks of workplace accidents. Agriculture is one of five high risk industries identified by WorkSafe NZ, the stand-alone regulator for workplace health and safety. Federated Farmers recognises the significant financial and social implications injuries and fatalities have on farmers and their families.
We also recognise that society has a much lower tolerance of workplace accidents and that this lower tolerance is reflected in changes being made to health and safety legislation and regulation and an ambitious target by the Government to significantly reduce serous work-related injury and death by 2020.
Federated Farmers agrees that more needs to be done to make farming safer but responses need to recognise that farming is not like a factory or an office. Federated Farmers believes that for farming education and information is the best way to encourage safer practices and better outcomes. Compliance and enforcement activities should be available but their use should be reserved for instances of serious harm, that is they should be proportionate to the seriousness of the breach. Taking a heavy-handed compliance-based approach would in most cases be counter-productive and is less likely to result in the desired outcomes.
Federated Farmers supports New Zealand’s no-fault accident compensation system. It is important though that it should operate as an insurance scheme first and foremost rather than as an extension of the welfare state. That said, we are concerned that some older farmers are being declined claims as a result of gradual process conditions.
ACC has experienced a financial turnaround in part due to a refocusing of the scheme and better control of its costs but also due to its funds achieving excellent investment returns. ACC is now able to deliver substantial levy reductions but if they are to be sustainable into the future the focus must remain on containing scheme costs.
The Government makes the final call on ACC levies and it has at various times declined or modified ACC’s recommendations. Federated Farmers believes ACC should be free to set the levies without political interference. At the very least the Government should be obliged to accept ACC’s recommendations.