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Workplace safety is an issue for most businesses, and farming enterprises are no different. The Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (SA) places various requirements on employers to ensure the health and safety of all workers.

Whilst a farming property is likely to be a person’s home, it is also a workplace, which makes the farming enterprise responsible for anyone who works on the property, including any friends who help out, any contractors and people such as stock agents.

Where farming operations differ to some businesses is the range of potential issues, given the physical nature of the work being done, the machinery being operated and the chemicals being used, and the fact that the farming operations can involve more than simply working on the land- for example having to drive vehicles on public roads to get from one paddock to the next.

The reality of this issue for farming enterprises is highlighted in information published by SafeWork SA, which notes that while only 4.5% of the South Australian workforce works in agriculture, almost 19% of workplace deaths occur on farms, with a similar prevalence of injuries. Unfortunately most of us have experienced instances or heard stories of serious injury or death resulting from incorrect use of farm machinery or handling of livestock.

The most basic thing that can be done to minimise these risks is to ensure that there are appropriate workplace policies and safe operating procedures in place to deal with matters like the operation of machinery and the handling of livestock. These policies should not just be limited to what happens on the farming property itself, but also operating machinery in public areas, such as surrounding public roads. It is also important that the employer makes every attempt to ensure that their employees are aware of relevant policies and procedures and ensure they comply with any requirements contained in them.

It is also critical to ensure that appropriate insurances are in place, not just for injuries to employees but also for injuries to owners. The latter part of the equation, namely the owners, is often a forgotten element of this. Every farming operation needs to determine how it is structured and whether the owner is going to be paid as an employee. If they are not to be paid as an employee, it will be important to have separate policies of insurance in place to provide some level of cover if they are injured whilst working.

It is also important to consider what cover is in place for situations where the employer or worker causes injury to a third party someone else- for example, there was a recent accident on Kangaroo Island where a person was accused of driving a tractor with no lights on a public road and causing an accident which left the driver of the other vehicle dead.

What is critically important is that each farming enterprise properly consider all of the above issues and ask the question- if this happened, would we have the appropriate protections in place?

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This article was published in the May 2022 edition of The Stock Journal