Health and safety


6 min read

Creating a safety culture Identify and manage risks Health and Safety steps Training and supervision Communicating with contractors Notifiable event Worksafe guides Additional resources

Your team are an asset to your business; getting them and yourself home safe from work each day is a priority for everyone.


Under the Health and Safety Work Act, employers are obliged to monitor and manage risk on-farm. This includes the impact of fatigue on employee health, safety and wellbeing.


Working on a dairy farm is high risk and health and safety demands attention. Having health and safety policies specific to your farm business will clearly outline your expectations, farm-specific risks and how these risks will be managed. It also ensures you are compliant with current workplace law.

Creating a safety culture on farm

Make health and safety a priority so that it becomes part of the workplace fabric and culture. If you view health and safety as just a legal obligation, then health and safety becomes about compliance, rather than a conscious decision to protect and look after the wellbeing of you and your team.

Mistakes can happen because of workload pressure, corner cutting, or rushing to meet time pressure. On-farm this can mean serious injury or death. As an employer it is important to create a workplace where your team feel safe and are comfortable raising health and safety concerns with you. A team that feels safe, physically and emotionally, will deliver better results, reduce risk and increase your ability to retain and attract new team members.

Who are you responsible for?

Farms are unique workplaces with contractors, visitors and family members often being on or around the working areas of the farm. WorkSafe provides guidance to farmers around the responsibilities they have towards the health and safety of both authorised and unauthorised visitors to the farm, and to children and young people.

Identifying risks

Preventing on-farm injuries, even relatively minor ones, is essential to avoid lost time and productivity, especially during calving, when the days get busier. DairyNZ research in conjunction with ACC has shown that the most common injuries on farm occurred in the paddock (34%) or were calf related (24%)

To identify risks specific to your farm, work out what farm activities, equipment or features have the potential to cause harm and list these with your team. The team may notice risks that you are not aware of. Turning this list into a formal document then creates a risk register. It's a great way to involve the entire team, share responsibility, and increase team 'buy-in' by making everyone feel included in the process.

You don’t need to spend time identifying and analysing every possible risk on-farm. You should focus on risks that could result in injury or ill-health.

Remember, not all risks are obvious. Loud machinery can cause hearing loss with prolonged exposure. Handling animals can result in illness like Leptosporosis. Continued long hours without rostered time off can cause fatigue.

Managing risks

Managing risks on-farm is the responsibility of the whole team. You are required to do what is reasonably practicable to manage risks in your business. This is about taking responsibility for what you can control. Overall, it means that you must do what’s reasonably possible to minimise harm, considering the likelihood and severity of harm, what people should reasonably know , and the availability, suitability, and cost of risk reduction methods.

If cost is to be considered, the test should be whether the cost is ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the risk.

Look at each risk and decide together whether you can reasonably and practicably eliminate, minimise or isolate each one and take the necessary steps to do so. Use this hazard management register template.

Remember, a Health, Safety and Wellbeing policy is a living document and as changes happen on farm(e.g. new machinery is purchased, or a new chemical is being used), the risks and management practices for this need to be added, old ones removed, and changes recorded.

Simply providing training and personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff is not enough to minimise risk.

The policies and procedures should be reviewed regularly and discussed at team meetings. Try the health and safety meeting minutes template.

Practical health and safety steps

Leading farmers have suggested the following practical ideas for implementing health and safety on farm:


  • Wear the appropriate PPE.
  • Discuss any accidents/near-misses you have been involved in with the rest of the team. Record these and brainstorm what can be done to prevent this from happening again.
  • Make health and safety part of everyday conversations.
  • Include safety as an agenda item at farm staff meetings.
  • Discuss hazards and their controls, any training required, accidents and near-misses, what to do in different emergencies, and so on. For more complex jobs try using this template to record your health and safety plan.
  • Involve employees in health and safety. Employees are often the ones on the ground who are aware of potential hazards and problems. Their feedback and participation are essential for developing a safety culture on the farm.


  • Don’t cut corners e.g don’t try and do something an easier or faster way for the sake of it.
  • Don’t undertake high-risk activities when you’re tired. Fatigue is a major cause of accidents. Don’t do them alone either if you can avoid it.
  • Don’t assume that because a topic has been raised once people will remember what to do. Ongoing conversations are needed, and key messages need to be repeated regularly.

The risk of injury can become more problematic during the busy calving season when the absence of even one team member can add significant pressure on others. Here are some further suggestions to help over this period:

  • Have two staff pick up heavier calves together if needed.
  • Use a specialised trailer to transport calves.
  • Pipe milk into calf feeders instead of lifting buckets.
  • Tuck hoses away after use in the milking shed.
  • Invest in the right footwear - look for great grip and ankle support.
  • Farmers also suggested holding quick weekly team meetings to identify risk areas on-farm. For example, any holes or dips that could be a hazard for staff working at night during calving, or how to make calf pick-up easier and avoid heavy lifting.

Take a look at these short videos about the importance of preventing sprain and strain injuries on-farm.

Keep a spring in your step - picking up calves

1 / 3 videos 1:00 min

Keep a spring in your step - feeding calves

2 / 3 videos 1:04 min

Keep a spring in your step - choosing the right footwear

3 / 3 videos 0:59 min

Make training and supervision a priority

  • Ensure all new staff are given a health and safety introduction and sign they sign this health and safety acknowledgement form once completed.
  • Ensure all employees receive the appropriate amount of supervision for their experience level until you are satisfied they can perform set tasks safely.
  • Make on-the-job training part of everyday activities. Employees who know what they are doing, do a better job the first time around, make fewer mistakes, and have fewer accidents.
  • Clearly communicate health and safety information through notices and signs around the farm.
  • Send employees on appropriate training courses e.g., ATVs, chainsaws, motorbikes etc.
  • Include a commitment to health and safety in written employment documents. This means doing things safely is an expected part of 'what good looks like' and is regularly assessed throughout the year.

Communicating with contractors

Communication is vital when managing risk and includes communicating with outside contractors who may do work on your farm, e.g. silage or fencing contractors.

It is important to know when the contractor is on and off farm, and that you and the contractor (or the contractor’s employer)understand and work to both parties’ Health and Safety policy.

To ensure contractors are aware of risks on your farm, use the contractor checklist template.

Notifiable event

A notifiable event is when any of the following occurs at a place of work:

  • A death.
  • Notifiable injury or illness:
    This is an injury that requires someone to be admitted to hospital for immediate treatment, or an injury or illness declared in regulations to be notifiable. It does not include fainting (unless it is due to a work-related cause), a sprain, strain or fracture that does not require hospitalisation (except for skull and spinal fractures).
  • Notifiable incident:
    A notifiable incident is where someone's health or safety is seriously endangered or threatened. This includes where people may be put at serious risk even if they were some distance from the incident (e.g., from a gas leak).

For more detailed information visit WorkSafe or phone 0800 030 040.

What to do in a notifiable event

1. Preserve the site

The person who manages or controls the workplace must take all reasonable steps to ensure the site of the notifiable incident is preserved and not disturbed until a WorkSafe Inspector releases the site. This means:

  • the work set-up should not be changed
  • any plant, substances or other things involved in the incident should stay where they are
  • work that could interfere with the site should stop, work may continue in other parts of the workplace
  • no alterations should be made to the plant, vehicles or structures involved.

The site may only be disturbed:

  • to remove an injured person
  • to remove a deceased person
  • to make the site safe or minimise the risk of someone else being hurt or killed
  • if you are directed to do so by the police
  • if permitted by WorkSafe or a WorkSafe inspector.

2: Notify WorkSafe New Zealand

If a serious workplace incident occurs, you must notify WorkSafe as soon as possible. The notification must be made even if emergency services attend.

Only one notification is required for each notifiable incident. If there are multiple businesses involved with the work, then one of the businesses should be nominated to contact WorkSafe. Note that all businesses are responsible for making sure that the notification is made by the nominated business.

3. Keep records

You must keep records of all notifiable incidents for at least five years from the date of the incident.

Last updated: Apr 2024

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