Agribusiness health and safety specialist Melissa Vining, wants to assure duck shooting enthusiasts and farmers that the new health and safety legislation should not curtail their enjoyment this opening weekend of the season.
“Farmers can rest assured that despite several changes to the legislation that came into force earlier this month, there is no danger of cancellation nor lengthy form filling interfering with their favourite season of the year,” says Melissa Vining – Senior Consultant in the Human Resources Division of Findex.
Vining notes, “The new health and safety legislation does not prevent farmers hosting shooters or enjoying duck shooting. Where shooters are in an area of the farm not being used for work purposes, and not close to the buildings on the farm, then the farmer wouldn’t need to take many steps in relation to those duck shooters to be compliant with the new rules.”
She adds, “However, if work is being carried out in the area where duck shooting is occurring then the farmer would need to consider relocating the work or putting controls in place to ensure no harm comes to the workers or shooters.”
This will come as a welcome relief with fears filtering through the farming community and farmers considering if it is worth the risk of allowing shooters on their property.
Vining says, “Farmers shouldn’t fear allowing shooters onto their property or enjoying their land for recreational purposes, but they still need to remember that firearm safety should be the number one priority for duck shooting weekend. If all shooters are well versed in the seven basic rules of the Firearms Code, then health and safety should not get in the way of an enjoyable day.” The seven rules of the Firearms Code are as follows:
- Treat every firearm as loaded.
- Always point firearms in a safe direction.
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire.
- Identify your target.
- Check your firing zone.
- Store firearms and ammunition safely.
- Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms.
It’s not just the young and inexperienced shooters that need to go over the rules; Vining encourages even the more experienced hunters to have regular refreshers on the Firearms Code.
“On average, a hunter is accidentally killed every nine months in New Zealand and there does not appear to be a pattern that correlates with the experience of the hunter,” says Vining who has seen firsthand the devastation that is created when a very talented, young Southland farmer was killed in a firearm incident in 2014. The effect it had on his partner, children, family and friends was tragic.
Vining reminds hunters that, “While all the rules are equally important, one rule that seems to need the heaviest reminder around duck shooting season is alcohol consumption. Alcohol and firearms do not mix. Not only is it irresponsible with potentially fatal consequences, but under the Arms Act there are several potential charges that shooters could face, along with the risk of losing their licence.”
According to Vining, another important point is to ensure that workers and contractors on the farm are aware of duck shooting and are kept clear of the area.
“As farmers know, duck shooting has all the makings of a great day so long as common sense and responsibility are applied,” finishes Vining.