Workplace manslaughter is now a criminal offence under occupational health and safety laws. Farm owners, managers and directors must ensure a safe and healthy workplace – if someone dies on your farm, you could be prosecuted under the new law.
This new law doesn't create additional responsibilities; it just introduces tougher penalties. If you're already complying with your work health and safety duties, and continue to, you're doing the right thing. If you’re not complying, and not thinking about workplace risk, the consequences can be much tougher.
Most deaths (about 75%) on farms involve vehicles
Common situations involve tractors, trucks, quad bikes and other vehicles.
Rolling over and crushing
Vehicles can roll over and crush people, particularly if a person has been thrown from the cabin.
Running over the driver
The driver can be run over while they're out of the vehicle.
Running over others
Others can be run over while they are outside of the vehicle.
People can become entangled in attachments, particularly in power take-off (PTO)-driven machinery.
Top tips on vehicle safety
- Maintain your vehicles, particularly the brakes.
- Consider the most appropriate vehicle for the job. Operators and work supervisors should consider the terrain and weather conditions, for example many vehicles roll over on farms when travelling on steep or slippery slopes.
- Anyone who drives a vehicle should be legally able to do so and you should observe that they know how to drive the vehicle safely.
- Ensure operators can see other people around the vehicle, especially when reversing.
- Children and machinery sheds don't mix.
- Fit an operator protection device (OPD) to quad bikes to reduce the risk of being crushed in a rollover.
- Stay aware and alert. Wherever possible, only have the tractor engine going when an operator is in the seat. Many incidents occur when people stand between tractor wheels to start the vehicle without somebody in the driver's seat, or when stopping a tractor to check on something or to open a gate.
- Getting on or off moving vehicles is a recipe for disaster. Don’t get on or off moving vehicles.
- Where a vehicle could overturn, wear seatbelts to reduce the risk of being thrown from the cabin and crushed.
- Wear a helmet on quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles.
- Don’t carry passengers unless the vehicle is designed to do so.
- Don't let children under 16 years old drive adult quad bikes.
Vehicles aren't the only dangers on farms. Whatever job you and your workers are doing on the farm, always think of safety first. Consider what could go wrong and how to stop that happening, discuss with your employees and take action to make sure you’re providing a safe workplace.
Your farm health and safety legal duties
As a farmer you may be self-employed, employ people, or manage and control a farm. Regardless, you have occupational health and safety responsibilities, including:
- ensuring your farm is a safe working environment without risks to the health of your employees
- ensuring farm activities don’t expose anyone (eg family, employees, contractors, visitors) to health and safety risks
- ensuring people can enter and leave the farm safely, and without risk to their health (including people making deliveries on farm)
- WorkSafe's tools and handbooks can help you find common hazards, assess the risks and set up suitable controls for your farm.
- Speak to your farming industry organisation about farm safety.
- Learn more about the new workplace manslaughter laws on the WorkSafe website.
- Apply to have a safety consultant come to your farm via the WorkSafe's OHS Essentials program.