Farmers’ Guidebook to work health and safety

All people who work in farms face risks every day. These risks can lead to serious injuries and illness if you’re not careful. To help you stay safe at work, we’ve put together a farmer’s guidebook to work health and safety. It includes advice on how to reduce hazards in your workplace, what to do if something goes wrong, and how you can stay ahead of the curve.

The agriculture industry is one of the oldest industries in the world. It employs millions of people around the globe and generates billions of dollars in revenue. The industry has had many changes over the years, from how its products are grown, protected, and sold. The one thing that has remained constant is that many of the workers employed by the industry are at risk for injury and health issues.

To put this into perspective…

The agricultural industry has some of the highest rates of workplace injury and illness among all industries.

Let’s face it, farming can be dangerous. Farmers are often living and working in remote areas, where emergency services can take a long time to arrive. But by taking simple precautions and applying a few basic principles, you can keep yourself and your employees safe on the farm.

And that’s where this farmer’s Work Health and Safety Guide comes in. This guide is designed to be used by both new and experienced farmers who are looking for advice on how best to manage their work health and safety risks.

PART 1: Setting up a safe farm environment

Develop a WHS policy

Your farm, like any other business, will have a wide range of hazards and risks. All farms should therefore have a work health and safety policy. 

A farm workplace health and safety (WHS) policy is a detailed document outlining your organization’s priorities, goals, procedures, and resources to ensure WHS risk management is prioritized.

A well-written work health and safety policy not only outlines your responsibilities, but also those of your workers. It helps ensure people stay safe and well, and minimizes the risk of injury and illness. A WHS policy covers hazard management, training, supervisions, monitoring and reviews.

Key WHS Policy considerations:

  • Consultation

The key to farming safely takes planning, communication and a whole lot of teamwork. Those are all pretty universal things. The key with consultation is to ensure that everyone is on the same page before you go ahead. You should be regularly communicating with everyone on your farm in order to avoid unsafe practices.

You should discuss health and safety matters with:

  • Any type of workers 
  • Health and safety representatives,
  • Contractors and subcontractor
  • Other persons that can be affected by farming activities. 

Mode of discussions can be informal (e.g. during breaks) or formally arrangements such as through health and safety representatives or committees. 

Regularly scheduled meetings are a critical part of any safety program. These meetings allow team members to interact face-to-face, discuss goals and objectives, and identify and correct any potential problems before someone gets hurt.

Finally, it is important to keep a record of meetings, feedback, decisions and action items. Make sure everyone on your team is aware about this information.

  • Training and supervision

You need to trust the people who work in your farm – in their ability to complete their task appropriately as required by law and industry standards. This means that you need to make sure they have a solid understanding of agriculture and animals. They need to learn to recognise any signs of danger such as sickness, unwell animals and neglect. And this is where training is important – to ensure your employees are up to date and their activities won’t result in harm to themselves, farm inputs, and others.

When you think of training programs, consider the following:

  • To determine what training is required on your farm, conduct a Training Needs Assessment (TSA)
  • It is a must for you to organise Induction training for new workers. Or following introduction of a new procedure or equipment.
  • Training should be routine as new trends and requirements emerge

You have several options when it comes to delivering training – it can be delivered as:

  • Hands-on, on-the-job instructions by experienced staff
  • Capacity building training sessions external resource persons
  • Formal training at accredited centres or colleges.
  • E-learning modules

Furthermore, supervision of farm workers is an essential part of any kind of a farm operation, and can make the difference between success and failure. Overseers are responsible for overseeing the staff employed on a farm or ranch. They keep an eye on workers and make certain that tasks run smoothly.

  • Incident reporting

A good incident reporting system helps you manage your farm more safely and helps you to comply with relevant legislation.

An incident can be any event or occurrence that results in a loss of property, damage or injury. It is important to understand your obligation under the Workplace Health and Safety at Work Act to report an incident.

Laws will differ between States, but it is a legal requirement that you notify relevant parties if a seriously injured worker requires immediate in-patient treatment. You also need to report deaths, dangerous incidents, and other emergencies as soon as possible.

Incidents are opportunities for learning – incident information provides important lessons for the future and contributes to improving safety. By interviewing the personnel involved in the incident, evaluating the existing safety system, and assessing the circumstances that may have contributed to the incident, you can identify opportunities to improve the safety of their operations and reduce your risk of liability.

  • Emergency procedures

Everyone involved in farming should have a plan for dealing with emergency situations. Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a flood or earthquake, or an accident that causes serious injury, you and your workers need to know what to do. 

You must establish clear procedures for evacuating your workplace and activating an emergency call system, while ensuring that everyone knows the correct procedures.

Your plan should also include how emergency services are to be notified, first aid, and making sure there exists a clear access for emergency services to reach and operate within the farm.

First aid 

First aid on the farm is just as important as first aid in any other industry. Farmers perform many of the same jobs as their counterparts in other fields, but they face greater risks because of the nature of their business. So, it’s imperative that they know what to do in a medical emergency, and how to handle a variety of situations.

First Aid Kits for farm workers are an essential part of the workplace. A first aid kit is intended to be used in the event of injury or illness. Firstly, it is important that all the contents of a first aid kit are useful and easy to understand. It is also a good idea to include an instruction sheet that outlines how to use each item.

Examples of what should be included in First aid kits include: crepe bandage and sting relief cream/gel/ointment, large clean sheeting (for covering burns), thermal blanket (for treating shock) etc.

Do well to have a first aid officer on-farm. You can train one or more of your employees for this purpose.

At all times, workers should have access to the first aid kit. The kit should be boldly marked and kept accessible.

  • Building and workshop safety 

The farm workshop is a place where you can get many things done. It is the heart of the farm, where you make all sorts of things that you need to run your farm. 

You need to consider a lot of things when it comes to maintaining safe workshops and buildings. You can start with the following:

Maintain a clean and hygienic workspace.

  • Get rid of any tripping hazards.
  • Make sure the working space is adequate for each job task.
  • Fire exits and walkways should be visibly  marked.Secure all objects stored at height.
  • Provide fire extinguishers and locate them  conveniently. 
  • Ensure adequate lighting for tasks.
  • Clear up spills on the floor  immediately.
  • Repair floor surfaces.
  • Ensure adequate ventilation of work areas. 
  • Use of Personal protective equipment

The use of personal protective equipment is vital if you are to minimise the risk of getting injured while operating machinery on a farm. That equipment includes protective boots, goggles, protective clothing and a safety harness. While these items may seem like common sense, it is important that you follow all safety procedures when operating machinery while wearing them.

  • Visitor Safety 

If your goal is to get visitors to your farm, you need to make them feel safe. Anything you can do to prevent accidents and injury will help you accomplish this goal. 

  • Record keeping and documentation 

Record keeping and documentation is crucial for farm safety. The records and forms that you create can help you prevent accidents and manage risks on your farm. With the right documentation, you can avoid potential lawsuits and protect yourself from injury. When it comes to farm safety, having the proper documentation can save your life. 

Implement a WHS Management System

Farmers today are facing a whole list of challenges. Competition is fierce in farming industries. To make it easy to implement your WHS policies and its components above seamlessly without pulling out your hair; eliminate as much risk as possible, and to ensure regulatory compliance, a WHS management system is all you need. It is the glue that holds it all together from a single source

Like we all can agree: in farming, time is money. So an hour wasted in the office is money lost. But farms are a series of micro-businesses within a business. It’s hard to keep track of what is going on. Using a WHS management system you can Improve efficiency and save time by getting your employees to implement best practices.

A WHS management system enables you to manage all of your operations right from the terminal on your farm. You can connect with your team no matter where they are.

Transform your farm safety management process and discover a flexible, high-end solution for managing all the administrative functions of the workplace health and safety regulatory requirements without incurring significant additional costs.

A WHS management software can take your business to a whole new level. It makes real-time health and safety management easy by taking care of the heavy lifting for you. And it does everything seamlessly; real time alerts, incident notifications, reporting, safety training – it’s all part of the package . The result is more time doing what you love – farming.

PART 2: Plant and machinery safety

Accidents can happen to anyone in any industry, however the consequences of an accident on a farm are magnified because of the high risk nature of this type of work brought about by the use of machinery and other farm tools. Be aware that injury is a real possibility each time you engage in farming activities. So, familiarize yourself with the safety guidelines for various types of equipment and machinery on your farm.

To ensure health and safety on the farm, you need to complete a detailed equipment safety checklist on a regular basis. Create a complete list of all the plants and equipment used on-farm and identify hazards associated with their use. Also, make sure you consult with workers who use these equipment regularly.

You should assess the level of risk created by the use of these machinery and tools and prioritise them according to their potential to cause harm. Once you have a clear picture of the risks, you can work out how best to limit or reduce those risks. Just remember what you’ve considered and why, then monitor and review what you’ve done and what you can do in the future.

Safety solutions:

On the farm as with other workplaces, the WHS provisions provide the proper guideline for the control of hazard risks. These solutions can be grouped into 5 categories which you should use when you want to ensure plant and machinery safety on your farm. 

  • Elimination – Remove plant or machinery/tool that can cause injury, This can be old, obsolete, and unstable machinery that can be dangerous when used.
  • Substitution – use an alternative plant or method that is safer.
  • Engineering controls – provide guards to isolate workers from all accessible and dangerous parts of machinery or plant.
  • Administrative controls – Ensure safe working practices and abide by all safety procedures when operating heavy machinery.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – provide and make workers wear appropriate PPE when working on any plant or with any machinery/tool. .

Special considerations:

  • Modifications

Modification of any agricultural plant should be done by a competent and trained professional. The plant/machinery can be freighted to the manufacturer or accredited dealer for modification or you could do it onsite if you have the competency and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  • Farm vehicles

Operate farm vehicles at a safe speed and ensure any item being transported is securely hitched. Also, comply with the appropriate Codes of Practice when using public roads paying attention to the terrain, overhead power and telephone lines.

Ensure drivers are adequately trained and have the correct licences and follow all road safety precautions and practices when driving.

  • Guarding

To prevent contact with or getting trapped between moving parts, or being hit by objects thrown from the machine, provide guards to serve as a barrier to keep people away from these hazards during operation, routine maintenance or adjustment. 

  • Operators

Ensure operators are adequately trained and have the correct licences and competency to operate them.

  • Maintenance

Maintenance and inspection of plant and equipment should be routine per manufacturer recommendation and carried out by competent and approved specialists. 

PART 3: Specific Farm hazards and solutions

Animal handling

  • Put barriers in place to keep animals confined and away from dangers.
  • Keep surfaces adequately cleaned and maintained to prevent workers and animals from slipping.
  • Train and instruct workers on the best practices when handling animals.
  • Try to work in pairs at least. As much as possible avoid working alone.
  • Inspect and maintain gates, barriers, and other equipment to ensure they would work appropriately when needed.
  • Always ensure emergency escapes.
  • Use safety/warning signs appropriately.
  • Use protective equipment and clothing as the task demands.
  • Ensure strict hygiene 
  • Keep sharp objects/tools securely stored

Animals – infectious diseases

  • Train workers to identify and respond appropriately to signs of infectious diseases on the farm.
  • Vaccinate workers and animals at risk of contracting infectious diseases.
  • Ensure hygiene is practiced. This should include personal hygiene of workers, animal care, and equipment.
  • Isolated and treat sick animals.
  • Use PPE as appropriate.
  • Be familiar with your legal obligation to notify regulators of notifiable diseases.

Hazardous chemicals and dangerous substances

  • Train workers on the safe handling, use, and storage of hazardous chemicals.
  • Provision of a Safety Data Sheets for all chemicals in use is a must.
  • Chemical containers should be clearly labelled.
  • Keep containers containing hazardous substances tightly closed.
  • Employ only appropriate chemical storage practices.
  • Disposed dangerous substances appropriately.
  • Have emergency procedures in place to handle incidents related to hazardous chemicals/ dangerous substances..
  • Provide containment equipment/kit.
  • Ensure advisory/warning signage is in place.
  • Use of appropriate PPE when handling hazardous substances.

Hazardous manual tasks 

  • Workers should be trained properly to adhere to correct manual handling procedures.
  • Provide mechanical aids to perform repetitive manual tasks e.g lifting heavy items.
  • Consider an ergonomic design for the work area.

Heat stress 

  • Reschedule work to cooler time of the day to minimise risk of heat stress.
  • Make provisions for breaks or rotation to reduce exposure to heat. 
  • Train workers to recognise signs of heat illness and appropriate action to take. 
  • Workers working outdoors should be provided with adequate protection against UV exposure. 
  • Ensure cool drinking water is readily available near the worksite always. 


  • Provide screens, partitions or guarding to control noise.
  • Use hearing protection. 
  • Ensure advisory/warning signage is in place. 

Dusts and fumes

  • Appropriate PPE should be provided and worn.
  • Provide exhaust ventilation where needed.
  • Install ventilation and dust collection systems – ensure they are regularly inspected and cleaned.
  • Do your best to monitor air quality.

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