Preventing injuries in the horticulture industry

4 May 2022

Written by Emily Lake, HortNZ data, systems and insights manager

First published in the April 2022 issues of The Orchardist and NZGrower.

Horticulture New Zealand has received funding from the ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) for a project to look at how we can decrease injuries and deaths in the industry through tools that reflect what happens out in the orchard and vegetable garden.  

The first step is to understand the real-life, on the ground picture around how and why injuries and deaths occur. Through this fuller picture, we can begin creating practical tools with industry, for the industry. 

If you want more information or are keen to participate in our initial data collection, please contact me: or 027 582 6655. All data collected will be anonymised and used within strict privacy guidelines.   


Speaking from experience 

Catherine Lewis, a director at Lewis Farms, says she is interested in the project as she has noticed a higher rate of minor physical issues with people this year.  

“We’ve had what seems like a greater number of people in our packhouse this year with sore backs and stiffness, due to both the age of our workforce and repetitive nature of the work. So, I am keen to look at ways to get on top of this issue so that our employees are fit, comfortable at work, and productive.”   

Kate Trufitt, New Zealand Horticulture Health and Safety Council chair, says safety interventions can target the human, or the technological and organisational environment.   

“But without understanding the harm first, it is difficult to know what interventions to develop.  Safety is measured mainly by the absence of negatives, but this is changing. Safety professionals are now looking at harnessing people as the solution rather than the problem. So rather than use procedures, compliance and sanctions, we want to build the capacities of our people and in turn, industry.  

“I really look forward to the outcomes of this project. That is, sustainable inventions to reduce harm in horticulture.” 


More about the project  

The project will build capability and establish health and safety leadership through four key project steps:

Understand > Intervene > Support > Lead.   

An essential component of this research is engagement with the sector. It will ensure any harm reduction efforts are developed based on the sector’s knowledge and successes, and reflect how business works within horticulture in New Zealand. 

A systems thinking approach will be used, which simply put, will focus on company arrangements, work pressures, procedures and regulations, in addition to what individual workers are doing.   

While HortNZ is leading this project, collaboration across the horticulture industry is key to ensuring success. The project is designed to begin with evidence and information sharing. Ultimately, activities will have the industry leading their own best practice initiatives with new tools and resources that are practical to implement and effective. 

In terms of Step One – Understand, we need to understand the real-life, on the ground picture around how and why harm occurs. We need to understand how things are done in the sector, how people collect information about harm, and what people see as critical issues. By gaining this fuller picture, we can begin creating practical tools with industry, for the industry.