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

While a farm property is likely to be a person’s home, it is also a workplace, making the farm business responsible for anyone working on the property, including friends who help , contractors and people such as storage agents.

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

The reality of this problem for agricultural businesses is highlighted in information published by SafeWork SA, which notes that while only 4.5% of the South Australian workforce works in agriculture, nearly 19% workplace fatalities occur on farms, with a similar prevalence of injuries. Sadly, most of us have experienced or heard stories of serious injury or death resulting from the improper use of farm machinery or the handling of livestock.

The most basic thing that can be done to minimize these risks is to ensure that there are appropriate workplace policies and safe operating procedures to deal with issues such as the operation of machinery and livestock handling. These policies should not only be limited to what happens on the farm property itself, but also to the use of machinery in public areas, such as surrounding public roads. It is also important that the employer does everything possible to ensure that its employees are aware of the relevant policies and procedures and ensure that they comply with all the requirements contained therein.

It is also essential to ensure that the appropriate insurances are in place, not only for employee injuries, but also for owner injuries. The last part of the equation, namely the owners, is often an overlooked element. Each farm must determine how it is structured and whether the owner will be paid as an employee. If they are not to be paid as employees, it will be important to have separate insurance policies in place to provide some level of cover if they are injured on the job.

It is also important to consider what coverage 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 without headlights on a public road and causing an accident which resulted in the death of the driver of the other vehicle.

What is extremely important is that every agricultural business properly considers all of the above questions and asks the question: if this were to happen, would we have the appropriate protections in place?

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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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