Focus on health,
not just safety

By Jane Muir 

9 February 2018

In the last few years, the increased focus on health and safety has been excellent to see.

Farmers across the country have made giant strides in improving safety on farm. Great stuff. Having said that, I’ve noticed that often the focus has been very much on safety. And understandably so, as the risks to our safety from the use of machinery or stock are often more confronting than unseen hazards.

I believe the focus also has to be on health too, as sometimes the forgotten risks are not always immediately apparent. Good examples include loud noises, toxic agrichemicals and diseases transmitted by animals.

It’s often these hidden risks that we underestimate and there is no better example than risks posed by airborne substances, which can result in hospitalisation or even death.

You may think, ‘that’ll never happen to me’.

Perhaps it won’t, but is it really worth taking the risk?

I don’t believe it is, especially when there are simple things we can do to offset the risk such as using protective equipment to protect our skin and prevent inhalation.

The same goes for leptospirosis. This is rare, and easy to prevent but unpleasant if caught.

The disease, which is transferred by direct or indirect contact with infected animal urine, causes flu-like symptoms and can have long-term effects.

A recent New Zealand Medical Association journal found up to 30 percent of those who had the disease suffered long-term effects such as depression and chronic fatigue.

The journal studied three cases and found two reported persistence of symptoms at least six months after the acute episode and one remains unable to work, suffering severe lethargy, headaches and visual disturbances.

These incidents potentially could’ve been prevented if simple precautions had been taken, such as using protective clothing and washing hands after being in the cow shed.

These incidents remind us we need to be aware of all risks on farm, not just those that are highly visible, and do everything we can to stop them.

DairyNZ has information on its website to help you identify risks and stop them.

To find out more about managing risk on your farm visit or

By Jane Muir, DairyNZ people team leader

Jane Muir

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