Taking aim at better farm safety


Duck shooting season is an ideal time to remind farmers of their duties with regard to events and visitors under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, WorkSafe believes

The health and safety regulator wants to remind farmers that the law insists they ensure that work areas on the farm are safe, and don’t pose a risk to the health and safety of any person.

The farmhouse is not considered a workplace under the law, but farmers must ensure that farm buildings and immediate surrounding areas are safe for any person, including visitors.

All entrances, exits and anything arising from the buildings, must not put visitors’ health and safety at risk.

Farmers are not responsible for the safety of people crossing a farm in non-work areas and away from farm buildings.

However, they must ensure that work carried out as part of the business (at any location on the farm), doesn’t put others at risk.

If risks exist from work previously carried out (e.g. spraying of hazardous substances), then the farmer would need to reasonably manage these risks for visitors.

People visiting a farm also have a responsibility to take reasonable care that their actions (or lack of action) do not put themselves or others at risk.

They must also comply with any reasonable instruction given by the farmer, as far as they’re able to.

When hosting an event on a farm the farm owner, event organiser and participants (or any other PCBUs) have certain duties towards health and safety.

This includes the duty to consult, cooperate, and coordinate with each other.

Farmers have duties towards health and safety whenever work is carried out on the farm  when an event is being held, even if the farmer is not the organiser of that event.

However, these duties only involve the farmer doing what is reasonably practicable to ensure the area where the event is being held is safe.

Farmers need to manage risks, as far as they are reasonably able to influence and control them – for example, telling the event organiser about a paddock where a tractor is operating or an effluent pond in the area

The farmer needs to ensure he or she understands the risks the event brings to the farm (which the organiser should warn them about).

They must also be satisfied the organiser is managing these risks properly (which the organiser should outline in their health and safety plan).

The farmer also needs to identify the risks that the farm itself may present to visitors (e.g. any ponds or unexpected steep gullies).

The farmer must inform the event organiser of these risks and be satisfied they’re being managed.

Some of the farmer’s actions may include:

  • briefing the organiser of the risks along the proposed route, including the possibility of stray animals, hard rutted surfaces under grass, and spray on the blackberry by the river clearly marking out the proposed route with the organiser and asking that they tell runners not to stray from the marked path
  • placing posts and tape around work-related obstacles along the path (e.g. old farm machinery lying in long grass)
  • asking to see a copy of the organiser’s health and safety plan.

The organiser also has responsibilities and must:

  • make sure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the event is without risk to the participants, volunteers and visitors (and their workers)
  • liaise with the farmer to understand any risks they’ve identified on the farm and pass on relevant information to the participants
  • make sure they have briefed the farmer on any risks the event may bring to the farm (e.g. trucks delivering marquees to the site)

The organiser may:

  • create and share a health and safety plan for the event with the farmer
  • plan a course that suits the skill of participants
  • brief all participants and volunteers about general or specifically identified farm risks, and the need to stay on the marked path
  • plan for emergencies and organise medical support in case of accidents.

Participants and visitors have a responsibility to take reasonable care their actions don’t put themselves or others at risk.

They must also comply with the reasonable instructions of any PCBUs (e.g. staying on the marked path), be it from the event organiser, farmer or both.

Farmers hosting and organising an event on their farm will obviously have a greater ability to influence and control risks, and take on the joint duties of the farm owner and the organiser.

However, having a charge in place for attending an event on the farm does not change duties relating to health and safety.

Whether the farmer or someone from outside, the event organiser must ensure the event is without risks to the health and safety of visitors so far as is reasonably practicable

Something is reasonably practicable if it is reasonably able to be done at the time to ensure health and safety, having weighed up and considered all relevant matters.

For more information about reasonably practicable, see the Reasonably Practicable fact sheet available on the WorkSafe website (www.worksafe.govt.nz)