Our farmers are dying to feed us
Dalton International had the pleasure of being part of the Health and Wellness Hub at Fieldays again this year. Our participation was aimed at informing farmers and other industries attending the Fieldays of the importance of using appropriate respiratory gear and protective clothing when working with hazardous substances. These would include chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers and dust from various operations.
We were saddened to hear many stories relating to illness, which in the storyteller’s mind, were directly attributable to the use of herbicides and pesticides – products mentioned were Roundup, Tordon brushkiller and Quattro. Regarding Quattro, some visitors likened it to “Agent Orange”, widely used as a defoliant during the Vietnam war with terrible health consequences for many returning soldiers.
- A berry farmer from Te Awamutu recounted her battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a blood cancer) after years of using herbicides and pesticides unprotected. Her family members in the same farming environment succumbed to liver, stomach and lung cancer.
- Another talked of being unable to get out of bed for several weeks after having sprayed herbicides.
- A grief counsellor said she wished that more farmers understood the consequences of working unprotected as she often had to support families coping with the death of a loved one.
- One gentleman relayed the story of his wife’s uncle, click the audio clip below to listen:
While many employers take their obligation to protect employee’s seriously, it was astounding to hear from some visitors regarding the lack of “buy-in” by their employers when it came to personal safety.
- One young farmer was too afraid of raising the issue of PPE with his employer for fear of losing his job!!
- Two young men working in the building industry were very concerned the health effects of asbestos and silica dust but were only issued with light disposable respiratory masks – they said that their employer would never spend the money on more expensive and effective respiratory systems.
Frankly, this is an indictment on those employers who choose cost over employee safety and gives some insight into the soft underbelly of non-compliance affecting many people, their health and their families.
As a company, Dalton International will continue to educate and encourage business entities and employees alike to ensure that their health and safety needs are met. It is our hope too that Worksafe will succeed in identifying and calling to book those employers who show total disregard for their employees’ welfare in hazardous work environments.