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Farming and fishing are the most dangerous occupations in the Timaru district, according to the latest ACC injury claims figures.

Of the 2427 claims, 618 came from those sectors.

“It’s just the nature of the work,” said South Canterbury Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Ryan O’Sullivan.

“Quad bikes would be a large component of that. Most of those accidents are quite serious,” he said.

Too many farmers did not wear helmets, and he said he

had recently put an emphasis on making sure his workers wore protective gear on the farm.

“It’s making sure the equipment is fit for purpose. It’s something that has evolved a wee bit with health and safety, but at the same time it’s wanting your staff looked after.”

Mr O’Sullivan said many of the accidents were unavoidable because they involved working with unpredictable livestock.

ACC spokeswoman for Federated Farmers Katie Milne said stress from droughts or cattle prices had a huge effect on farming injuries. “When you’re not 100 per cent fit and healthy you’re more likely to have an accident.”

The ACC claims showed the 46-54 age group made the most claims in Timaru with 537, followed by 35-44 year-olds, who submitted 465 claims, and 55-64 year-olds, with 441.

In the past 10 years, ACC claims for workplace injuries in the Timaru district had dropped 20 per cent.

Miss Milne was not surprised because there had been a concerted effort from all workplaces to improve health and safety.

However, Workplace Safety Systems trainer Barbara Ford, of Timaru, said the figures were misleading.

“They’re not going down as we would like to see them,” she said. “We still have a long way to go.”

“There’s a lot of work that has to go in, and that will be raising standards.”

Alliance’s Smithfield freezing works employs about 500 workers, and plant manager Rob Lindsay said they had a five-year strategic plan in place to improve health and safety to achieve a zero workplace injury rate.

More than half the claims were for soft tissue injuries.

He put a strong emphasis on reporting accidents, then investigating how they could be avoided.

“We still have a lot of work we want to continue with,” he said. “We need to start hitting it hard, the easy stuff has been achieved.”

Ministry of Innovation, Business and Employment spokesman Britton Broun said ACC claims may not reflect workplace safety.

“The Health and Safety in Employment Act requires employers to notify them of serious injuries, which does not necessarily compare directly to ACC criteria for claims.”

_Emma Cropper reporting for The Timaru Herald