The new Health & Safety laws will come into effect on 4 April 2016 but you cannot wait until then to have all your safety plans in place. Those responsibilities already apply under the current laws. In a recent case a worker injured their hand by putting it into a machine to free a jam. The employer was penalised $41,000 for failing to have a guard on the machinery, failing to train the staff on the hazards and failing to provide their safety procedures and policies to the staff.

The exemptions for farms that have recently been in the news relating to people crossing farm land and Health & Safety representatives do not significantly change your standard obligations to keep workers and others safe on your farm.

Under the new laws the form of ownership of the farm will not protect you from responsibility. Committee members, trustees and farm managers will all have duties that cannot be contracted out of or insured against.

Your primary duty is to keep everyone safe. To do that there are numerous steps you should follow to make sure you have done everything practical to ensure everyone is safe.

The laws are complicated and require a lot to be done to satisfy your obligations. Here are some of the main things you need to do under the current law:

  • Identify all hazards around the farm (e.g. dangerous chemicals)
  • Manage the hazards
  • Eliminate (e.g. change from a dangerous chemical to a less toxic one)
  • Isolate (e.g. lock up chemicals safely)
  • Minimise (e.g. provide protective clothing, masks etc when using)
  • Monitor hazards regularly especially if they can’t be eliminated or isolated.
  • Keep records of what you do. You need to be able to prove what you have done.
  • Hazard register – ones identified, steps taken to eliminate, isolate or minimise.
  • Accident Register – record events and near misses
  • Farm map – helps identify hazards, safe routes and any danger zones
  • Hazardous substances and new organism safety data records
  • Employee training- what have you provided, when and who?
  • Farm rules- what are they? When did you provide them to staff/contractors and how?
  • H&S audits- when were these carried out? What was found? What steps were taken to deal with any issues?
  • Contractor information provided to you- use this information as appropriate and keep the information so you can prove what you received and did.
  • Supplier information-ensure that this information is made known as appropriate to your staff.
  • Improvement Notices- keep records if you receive one and what you have done to comply.
  • Have rules for dangerous tasks and bring these to the attention of all employees.  Train them on the rules and processes to follow.  Supervise staff – the less experienced and more dangerous the task the more supervision required.
  • Have a Training Programme
  • Induction – advise of hazards, show them hazards around the farm.
  • Identify training needs.
  • Provide the training (use external providers as required).
  • Record each person’s roles and responsibilities.
  • Make sure they know what they are.

Involve employees in hazard identification and management.  Get employees to report any hazards, accidents or near misses to you.

Do you need H&S reps or committees?

Have plans for emergencies:

  • Procedures for handling events
  • Identify suitable people
  • Contact numbers and means to communicate
  • First aid supplies
  • Emergency equipment e.g. fire extinguisher.
  • Monitor environmental issues - e.g. dust, noise, chemicals, sun exposure.
  • Consider whether you have to report to Worksafe.
  • Serious harm events.
  • Prevent further incidents – learn from any events to prevent them happening again.
Take safety seriously.  Keep yourself, your whānau, your staff and manuhiri (visitors) safe on the farm.