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.
Being crushed or trampled by cattle is the second highest cause of farm deaths
The three most dangerous situations in the cattle yard involve:
Cattle moving through drafting gates.
Cattle walking up a loading ramp onto a truck.
Interacting with cattle at the crush
Working with cattle through a cattle crush.
Top tips on cattle safety
- Design your cattle yards so people and cattle don’t have to be in the same space and the cattle can move through easily.
- When drafting cattle, you shouldn't be in with the cattle. If this isn’t possible with your current yard design, ensure there are accessible escape gates or pre-identified escape routes that don’t require climbing over or under fences.
- Maintain your yards, races, gates and crushes. Ensure hinges swing freely and that there are slam shut latches.
- Make sure that anyone working with cattle is able to do so and knows how to do so safely, including discussing escape routes where necessary. Work in ways that mean that you avoid being in the cattle's escape path.
- Understand your cattle and how they're likely to behave when confined, nervous or agitated. Ensure that others working with you understand this.
- Where possible, work your cattle calmly and quietly.
- Avoid being between a cow and her calf.
- If possible, let your cattle become familiar with the yards or train them to move through the yards calmly.
- Consider your own safety and the livestock transporter when loading cattle: check out the information on ramps at the Livestock and Rural Transporters Association of Victoria’s website (see related pages).
- Talk about how your crush and yards operate prior to starting work with any contractors or service providers (eg vets and pregnancy testers).
Working with cattle isn’t the only danger 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 workers 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 workers
- ensuring farm activities don’t expose anyone (for example, family, workers, 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.
- Check out more on cattle handling from Temple Grandin.
- 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.
Victoria's new workplace manslaughter offences
Guide for safe design of livestock loading rampsExternal link
Flight zone and point of balance for low stress handling of livestockExternal link
Workplace manslaughter: Some steps to reduce risk of death from vehicles on farms
Workplace manslaughter: Providing a safe and healthy workplace on the farm
OHS Essentials program