Safety responsibilities: Cattle farm owners

As a farm owner you have obligations to keep everyone on your farm safe.


Your farm must be a safe place

As the owner of the farm, you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that it is a safe place for people to work.

This might look like:

  • Providing a farm induction before anyone starts work.
  • Making sure your cattle yards are safe and in good working condition, for example:
    • gates and latches swing easily and catch and close securely
    • the yard is kept clear of rubbish and debris
    • the yard surface is even and well drained
    • the drafting set up separates people and animals as much as possible
    • loading ramps are secure and safe
    • the crush is safe and well maintained
  • Having no-go zones in place for areas of the farm that are known to be dangerous.
  • Making sure machinery and equipment are safe and well maintained.

WorkSafe has information that can help you assess and improve the safety of your farm.

You must keep your employees and independent contractors safe

If you employ people, like farm workers or stockhands, to work on your farm, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide a working environment that is safe and without risks to health.

You also have obligations towards any independent contractors you engage, such as stockhands with their own ABN. You must also provide them with a working environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. Your obligations to independent contractors are limited to matters you have control over.

How to keep your employees and independent contractors safe

To understand how to keep your employees and independent contractors safe, you need to:

Have safety conversations and undertake training

This might look like:

  • Having farm rules or policies and procedures that explain how to work safely with cattle. Give a copy of these to your employees and contractors.
  • Giving new employees and contractors a farm induction before they start work.
  • Showing employees and contractors how to complete tasks safely and explaining what can happen if they take shortcuts or don't follow the correct procedures.
  • Demonstrating how to use equipment safely, for example showing how the crush operates or how to use the ramp riser.
  • Explaining the different types of terrain on the farm and how and when this can change. Show employees and contractors any no-go zones. No-go zones could include areas of steep terrain, areas with low power lines or creek beds.
  • Making sure employees and contractors know how and when to use safety equipment or personal protective equipment (PPE). For example, making sure there are helmets for anyone riding a quad bike, and that wearing a helmet is enforced.
  • Explaining any techniques you use on your farm, such as low stress stock handling.
  • Giving your employees cattle handling training. This could be formal training, or links to online information combined with hands on training in the yard.
  • Having a safety conversation before each time you start drafting, loading or mustering. For example:
    • Having a chat before mustering about the terrain to be covered that day and the cattle being mustered. Are there any boggy areas that should be avoided? Are there any animals that are known to be flighty in this herd?
    • Talking about the plan for drafting before work starts and reminding everyone where the escape routes are and how to keep cattle calm in the yards.
  • Explaining emergency procedures.
  • Supervising employees and independent contractors until you are confident they are working safely. For example:
    • Mustering cattle alongside employees and contractors until you are confident that they understand the tasks and terrain that they are working in.
    • Observing employees and contractors when they are working in the yard to make sure they understand how to work cattle through the yards and how to escape if a dangerous situation should occur.
    • Pairing newer employees and contractors with a more experienced mentor who can make sure they are working safely.

As an employer you must also:

  • monitor the health of your employees
  • monitor conditions at the farm
  • give your employees information about workplace health and safety in languages they can understand
  • keep records about the health and safety of your employees

You must consult with your employees about health and safety

Consultation means talking to your employees about health and safety and involving them in making decisions about health and safety on the farm. Consulting with your employees is a great way to identify safety issues early and get ideas about how to work better and safer.

Consultation might look like:

  • Talking to your employees about:
    • proposed yard improvements
    • new farm machinery
    • new approaches to cattle handling
    • how to report maintenance issues
  • Regular safety chats before and after task such as mustering, drafting and loading cattle.

You must not expose service providers to risk

When service providers, such as vets and livestock transporters are working on your farm you must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that they are not exposed to risks to their health or safety because of your actions. This might look like:

  • Not allowing cattle service providers to work alone. Someone from the farm business should be there when service providers are on your farm, to assist them and to raise the alarm should anything go wrong.
  • Providing a farm induction before they start work.
  • Ensuring your yards are safe to work in.
  • Showing a service provider how your yards work, including escape routes and how gate systems work.
  • Having a discussion about the temperament of your cattle. For example, people working in yards need to know if you have a troublesome bull they need to stay away from, or if a sick animal is behaving differently to normal.
  • Explaining how the crush works.
  • Explaining any no-go zones or farm hazards, such as boggy ground from recent rain.

You must make sure your farm is safe for everyone

Your farm activities must not expose people who are not your employees, like family or visitors to health and safety risks.

You must make sure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that people, including people making deliveries on the farm, can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health.

You must report notifiable incidents to WorkSafe

You must understand when to notify WorkSafe about incidents or accidents that occur on the farm. WorkSafe publishes information about what a notifiable incident is and how you can report them.

More information and advice