Health and safety overview

Creating a safety culture Raising awareness Health and Safety steps Training and supervision Identifying risks Managing risks Contractors Worksafe guides

Creating a safe and healthy culture needs to be a conscious and deliberate effort every day. Lead by example to show your team that safe practices are expected.

Having a health and safety policy specific to your business will clearly outline your expectations, individual risks and how these risks will be managed. A policy provides your staff with clear guidance for tasks and responsibilities and ensures you are compliant with current workplace law.

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

Creating a safety culture on farm

Make health and safety a priority so that it becomes ‘the way we do things around here’.

If you view health and safety as just a legal obligation, then health and safety becomes about compliance, rather than a conscious decision to do things in the best way to protect everyone’s wellbeing. Mistakes from workload pressure, corner cutting, or rushing can lead to mistakes. On farm this can mean serious injury or death.

“Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest export earner but it’s also one of our most high-risk industries

Raising awareness

Keep a spring in your step: Reducing sprains and strains during the busy calving season.

Injuries such as sprains and strains can significantly affect farms and their staff, both in terms of financial costs and overall well-being.

By taking the time to identify potential risks, the likelihood of staff experiencing injuries such as a strained back, twisted ankle, or stiff shoulder can be reduced, ensuring that they are available when needed the most.

This can be particularly problematic during the busy calving season when the absence of even one team member can add significant pressure on others.

Top tips from farmers:

  • 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.

Practical health and safety steps:

  • Lead by example: don’t cut corners, wear the appropriate PPE.
  • Don’t undertake high-risk activities when you’re tired - fatigue is a major cause of accidents.
  • Discuss any accidents/near-misses you have been involved in with the rest of the team. 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 that may be required, accidents and near-misses, what to do in the event of different emergencies, and so on.
    • 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.
  • 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.

Make training and supervision a priority

  • Ensure all new staff are given a health and safety induction.
  • Send employees to appropriate training courses e.g., ATVs, chainsaws, motorbikes etc.
  • 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.
  • Ensure that all employees receive the appropriate amount of supervision for their experience level.
  • Clearly communicate health and safety information through notices and signs around the farm.
  • Include a commitment to health and safety in written employment documents, (e.g., employment agreements/job descriptions/code of conduct/performance management system). This means doing things safely is an expected part of 'what good looks like' and is regularly assessed throughout the year.

Identifying risks

Work out what farm activities, equipment or features have the potential to cause harm and list these with your team. The team may have noticed risks that you were not aware of. Turning this list into a formal document then creates a risk register.

It's a great way to get the whole team involved, gives everyone a shared responsibility and you are more likely to get team 'buy-in' when everyone feels 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.

Managing risks

Managing risks on farm is the responsibility of the whole team. You are required to do what is 'reasonably practicable' meaning what is reasonably able to be done in the circumstances. 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.

Remember, any 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 these need to added, old ones removed, and changes recorded.

Simply providing training and PPE (personal protective equipment) 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 that can be found at the bottom of the page along with other resources.

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

Last updated: Sep 2023

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