Agriculture is identified by WorkSafe NZ as one of the top five industries for high-risk activities and workplace accidents. Everyone involved in an agricultural operation has a responsibility to ensure any risks are reasonably managed.

By investing your time and thought into creating a safe agricultural operation, it will pay dividends in productivity. Health and safety does not need to be complicated – you can make it simple and practical to meet the needs of your operation. Think about risk before doing tasks. Don’t rely on instinct alone. Prioritise health and safety planning to reduce the risk of people getting sick or injured, or impaired or killed, during your operation.

Ag pilot responsibilities

As an ag pilot you must understand how your health and safety responsibilities overlap with those of a farm. You have a responsibility to work with the farm business to make sure you all understand how to deal with any risks on a farm - and to make sure that the farm understands and works with you to manage any risks your work may bring.

Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations provides rules. These are in addition to the general operating and flight rules contained in Part 91.

Farmer responsibilities

As a farmer, you are responsible for the health and safety of people who work for you, or who are involved in, or affected by the work on your farm. You are also responsible for the health and safety of others that may come onto your farm – you are expected to do what is reasonable and practicable. You need to talk with your workers and visitors about health and safety, and make sure they participate in farm health and safety.

Learn more about Agriculture health and safety(external link) on the WorkSafe NZ website.

Agricultural operations hazards

Accidents seldom have a single cause; there are usually many contributing factors. When seeking to improve safety and reduce risks, you should consider all potential hazards within agricultural operations to prevent injuries and fatalities. Safety is not just about keeping people physically safe, it's also about mental health and wellbeing.

Wire strike avoidance

Wire strike is a cause of many agricultural pilot accidents and deaths. Low-level spraying happens frequently and farmers and agricultural pilots need to work together to stay safe around wires. If you are a pilot, a contract pilot, are an aviation company or a farm owner, you will have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. A well-planned safety risk management programme will help you identify and manage hazards, and put mitigations in place to ensure a farm is safe for aerial operations.

Learn about wire strike avoidance.

Download the wire strike information sheet(external link).

WorkSafe have more information about wire strike avoidance(external link).

Topdressing risks

Topdressing and associated activities can create hazards when transporting, storing, and spreading fertiliser.

Visit WorkSafe NZ to learn how to manage chemicals.(external link)

Farm airstrip hazards

The function of an airstrip is affected by numerous things, each of which can impact on the performance of the pilot and aircraft.

Visit WorkSafe for the safety guideline: Farm airstrips and associated fertiliser cartage, storage and application(external link)

Aircraft loading risks

Helicopter loading sites - should be level, clean and tidy with no loose articles that could come into contact with the helicopter from the resulting rotor wash. When spraying, the helicopter loading crew must ensure with each load that the pilot is aware the loading process has been completed and the filler hose has been disconnected prior to lift-off.

Part 133 Helicopter External Load Operations

Fixed wing loading areas - should be of a hard standing permanent surface with no loose gravel or stones that could cause propeller damage. They should be level to avoid the aircraft loader swaying and contacting the aircraft. The pilot needs to be aware after each load that the loading vehicle is clear before moving off. Aircraft loaders should be fitted with mirrors, reversing beepers and video cameras to assist with visibility issues when backing to minimise risk.

Only authorised persons should be on loading sites/areas and be in such a position that they are visible to the loading crew where practical. 

Requirements for building a farm airstrip

With regard to the use of a location for the purposes of landing and taking off of aircraft the relevant rule guidance can be found under Part 91 General Operating and Flight Rules. In particular Rule 91.127 places primary responsibility on the pilot of the aircraft to ensure a location being used for landing or taking off is safe to do so.

From a landowner's perspective, aerodrome design requirements for aircraft weighing less than 5700 kgs are dictated in Advisory Circular AC139-7 - Aerodrome Standards and Requirements for non-air transport operations, and Advisory Circular AC139-6 - Aerodrome Design Requirements for aircraft conducting air transport operations or aircraft weighing more than 5700kg. 

If your farm airstrip is going to be used for private use, then Part 157 Notice of Construction, Alteration, Activation, and Deactivation of Aerodromes may apply if it meets the applicability requirements of this rule. 

In addition to the above, if it is a commercial operation, as the landowner you will have responsibilities under the Health and Safety at Work Act to take all reasonable and practical steps to communicate, coordinate and cooperate with all users of the runway in the interests of safety.

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