Minister was warned of safety risk in agriculture, documents show

The Workplace Relations Minister was warned last year that agriculture was one of the worst performing in relation to health and safety - but has still decided to exclude most of that sector from rules facing high risk sectors.

Michael Woodhouse has been under fire this week for signing off on rules that will see worm farms and mini golf operators included in the new rules, but not sheep, dairy or cattle farmers.

Official documents show when he became minister last year he was warned that agriculture accounted for more workplace deaths in 2013 than the forestry, construction and manufacturing sectors combined.

In 2013 there were 20 deaths in the agriculture industry and in 2014 there was again 20 deaths.

The briefing documents show fibre and dairy/meat contribute most to agriculture's serious and fatal injury toll and over 50 per cent of farm fatalities are from tractor and quad bike accidents.

"Being hit or bitten by animals is the leading cause of non-fatal serious injuries," a briefing document states.

New rules are likely to pass into law next week but family of those lost to workplace accidents are furious at some exceptions. Source: 1 NEWS

It notes the key challenges are "poor understanding of levels of risk, highly-fragmented sector leadership, a blurred line between workplace and home and a lack of trust of government messages".

But it does point out a new Safer Farms programme was launched this year.

The decision to keep most of agriculture out of the high risk category means workplaces with fewer than 20 people will not have to have a workplace health and safety representative.

Mr Woodhouse says there are other health and safety measures all workplaces will have to comply with.

The bill is due to pass its third and final reading next week with the support of ACT, the Maori Party and United Future.