Sitting in a simulator with goggles on, connecting him to a virtual world, Jayden Corbett of Te Kauwhata drove along a narrow hill country track while trying to count sheep.
The hill country sheep farm worker was doing something he does regularly – drive a side-by-side on-farm – but this time he was being watched by onlookers at the WorkSafe stand at Fieldays.
“The track felt a lot narrower than in real life – it was an interesting experience. It kind of opens up your eyes to the dangers as it felt so different to real life.”
And that was the idea, according to Worksafe lead of agriculture in engagement and implementation group, Al McCone. “The idea is you drive across the paddock – over varying terrain – and count the number of sheep. And this simulates the concurrent multi-tasking that farmers have to do.”
Al says the simulator shows just how hard it is to actually stay on a typical farm track while you’re doing multiple things. “We see, in future, a lot of training will be taking place in simulation equipment. This means people can make mistakes before they start driving on farms – and that they can learn the good way of doing things, before they get on the machines.”
Headsets to complete a virtual pre-ride check on a quad were also available for visitors to try.
Al says currently many farms have difficulty accessing training off-farm. “And with uncertainty around tertiary agricultural providers funding, who is doing this sort of training? So we’ve got to start looking at what other types of training may be useful.”
Al says setting the equipment up is expensive but they become easy to replicate. “Worksafe funded a company called CoDrivr from Dunedin to create the background to the equipment at Fieldays; the machine is theirs. This is usually used for rallying, so it’s a proper high-speed simulator that had to be detuned to replicate the farm track.”
Al says Worksafe made this the focus at their stand due to the majority of incidences that happen on-farm happen around vehicles, about 80 per cent.
“What we’re seeing is more and more people are having accidents because they are not controlling the vehicles; or they’re doing two things at once.
Al says NZ gets as many accidents on quad bikes as on tractors. “It’s mainly through the multi-tasking factor – and also asking the machinery to do more than it’s designed to do.
“For example, if you take tractor across a too steep slope there is a high likelihood it is going to tip over. If you take a quad with bald tyres, or one tyre deflated slightly, across steep terrain the chance of a rollover increases.
“And it’s the roll-overs that are causing the most harm – that’s why we’ve just launched a campaign to encourage farmers to put Crush Protection Devices on quads as rollover protection. ACC is offering rebates to farmers if they purchase this equipment in the next 12 months.”
For their other vehicles, Worksafe is asking farmers to wear their seatbelts. “The hard facts are that many on-farm vehicle fatalities would be prevented if the victim had been wearing the provided seatbelt.”