Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
This booklet is one in a series of eight legal booklets for farmers
- About the booklet
- Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations
- Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
- Roles and responsibilities
- Legislation and the farmer
- Further information
About the booklet
This booklet is one of a series of eight covering legal aspects of managing a farm:
- Chemical Management
- Introduction to Occupational Health and Safety
- Livestock Management
- Noxious Weed and Pest Animal Management
- Soil Management
- Waste Management
- Water Management
Each booklet provides a list of the relevant legislation and explains the purpose of each.
They have been written for land managers and primary producers. Each booklet consists of the following sections:
Key terms, acronyms and abbreviations – an explanation of some of the language and terms used throughout the booklet.
Introduction – a summary of the intention of the legislation.
Roles and responsibilities – an explanation of roles played by national, state and local governments, their agencies and farmers.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes – the relevant Acts, guidelines and Codes covering farm management in Victoria.
Legislation and the farmer – A table of potential situations with an explanation of a farmer's obligations or the implications under the relevant Acts in Victoria.
Dangerous Goods– substances or articles that, because of their physical, chemical (physicochemical) or acute toxicity properties, present an immediate hazard to people, property or the environment. Types of substances classified as Dangerous Goods include explosives, flammable liquids and gases, corrosives, chemically reactive or acutely (highly) toxic substances. The criteria used to determine whether substances are classified as Dangerous Goods are contained in the Australian Dangerous Goods Code (ADG Code). They have a universally recognised symbol and this will be on the label of the product. The following agricultural chemicals are examples of Dangerous Goods: organophosphorus insecticides, cresols, carbamate pesticides, endosulfan, methyl bromide, phosphine fumigant, and ammonium nitrate.
Environmental hazard – a state of danger to human beings or the environment resulting from a substance having toxic, corrosive, flammable, explosive, infectious or otherwise dangerous characteristics.
Hazardous substances – those that, following worker exposure, can have an adverse effect on health. Examples of hazardous substances include poisons, substances that cause burns or skin and eye irritation, and substances that may cause cancer.
Acronyms / abbreviations
|ADG||Code Australian Dangerous Goods Code|
|MSDS||Material Safety Data Sheets|
|OHS||Occupational Health and Safety|
|PPE||Personal protection equipment|
Farms are inherently dangerous workplaces. Farmers and farm workers are more likely to be seriously injured or die at work than other Victorians. The farming industry employs about 3% of the Victorian workforce, however, it accounts for approximately one-third of workplace deaths across the State. The work may be heavy and awkward, and it can involve working alone as well as long hours. There is a high risk of death, injury or illness to workers and others on the property such as visitors and children.
The risks faced by farmers and farm workers are many and varied. Tractors and their attachments (particularly power-driven attachments) cause most of the deaths and severe injuries, however, unguarded augers, farm machinery, quad bikes and unpredictable animal behaviour have also caused severe injuries.
The vast majority of injuries are less serious – typically muscular or skeletal injuries resulting from forceful or repetitive lifting, carrying, pushing and pulling.
Other dangers faced by farmers and farm workers include falls, slips and trips, lacerations, contact with electricity, depression, fatigue, sun exposure, noise, working in confined spaces and illnesses associated with chemical use. Good Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) practices are essential on farms. Anyone entering a farm property, be it a family member, full-time employee, a casual worker, contractor, neighbour or just as a visitor, has a right to be protected from any hazard and risk that may exist on the property. Whether you are self-employed (family property), an employer or contractor, there is a legal responsibility to ensure a safe workplace on your farm. As well as providing a safe workplace for anyone on the farm property, there is also an obligation to train people in safe operating procedures, and to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety at work.
This booklet introduces farmers to the legislation and responsibilities relating to OHS on a farm.
Relevant laws, guidelines and Codes
The relevant legislation relating to OHS on a farm is briefly described here.
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
The Act sets out the key principles, duties and rights in relation to OHS. The duties imposed by the Act cover a wide variety of circumstances, recognising the need for a duty-holder to have flexibility in determining what needs to be done to comply.
The Act is based on the following key health and safety principles:
- All people from employees to the general public, should have the highest level of protection against risks to health and safety.
- Those who manage or control matters that create health and safety risks in the workplace are responsible for eliminating or reducing the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.
- Employers and self-employed persons should be proactive in promoting health and safety in the workplace.
- Information and ideas about risks and how to control them should be shared between employers and employees.
- Employees are entitled, and should be encouraged, to be represented in relation to health and safety issues.
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007
The Regulations cover aspects such as manual handling, noise, prevention of falls, confined spaces, plant and hazardous substances.
We note the Victorian government does not intend to adopt the proposed legislative changes for the national harmonisation of OHS law in their current form and therefore Victorian OHS law will continue to apply in the foreseeable future (although we note that the Victorian Government supports in principle a national harmonisation of workplace and safety laws and there may be changes to the law in the future).
Roles and responsibilities
The Victorian WorkCover Authority (known as WorkSafe Victoria) is responsible for enforcing Victoria's OHS laws. Its statutory obligations are spelt out in several Acts of Parliament including the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act). It aims to prevent workplace injuries occurring.
WorkSafe Victoria provides reasonably priced workplace injury insurance for employers, helps injured workers back into the workforce and manages the workers' compensation scheme by ensuring the prompt delivery of appropriate services and adopting prudent financial practices.
Under the OHS Act, land owners, employers, contractors and employees all have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe.
Dangerous Goods Act 1985
Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011
In Victoria, the manufacture, storage, sale, transport, use and import of Dangerous Goods are governed by a series of Acts, Regulations and Codes, depending on their class and usage.
The Act regulates the manufacture, storage, transfer, transport, sale, purchase and use of Dangerous Goods. It is the storage and use that is most likely to affect farmers. Liability under the Act and the Regulations can arise in two ways: as occupier of premises where the goods are held and as an employer of workers who handle or have contact with the goods. The Dangerous Goods legislation establishes nine classes of Dangerous Goods according to their common hazardous properties. A number of classes have sub-classes. The duties vary according to the class of goods and some exemptions apply if small amounts are handled. See the Chemical Management booklet for more information.
The Dangerous Goods (Storage and Handling) Interim Regulations 2011 are due to expire on 1 December 2012. Contact WorkSafe Victoria for further information.
Firearms Act 1996
This Act established a system of licensing and regulating the possession, carriage and use of firearms and related items. It covers the business of dealing in firearms, acquisition and disposal of firearms and related items, the registration of firearms and requirements for the secure storage and carriage of firearms.
Laws about firearms are of particular importance to rural people and land owners. Since Victoria's Firearms Act 1996 was passed, gun laws have become both uniform and tighter in all States and Territories of Australia. To apply for, or renew, a licence for a particular category of firearm, you must be able to show that you have met the eligibility criteria set down by the Firearms Act 1996 and these criteria include the following:
- Primary production – for Categories A, B, C longarms (e.g. you own, lease or manage land used for primary production).
- Hunting, including professional hunting – for Category A, B, C, D longarms (e.g. you belong to an approved hunting club, own rural land or have proof of permission from a land owner).
Road Safety Road Rules 2009
One of the road rules that applies to farmers relates to riding a motorcycle while droving stock. A motorcycle rider may not carry an animal between themselves and the handlebar. There is an exemption to this rule for farmers who, when working, carry an animal between the rider and the handlebars for up to 500 metres maximum on a road.
Legislation and the farmer
Key questions for farmers about Occupational Health and Safety
Consider the following questions. If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, look through the table on the following pages for more information, contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service, phone: (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089 (toll free) or visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au.
- As an employer, do you provide a safe workplace for your employees?
- As a person in charge of premises where Dangerous Goods are kept, do you take reasonable precautions against damage to property and injury to the public?
- Do you comply with your specific duties regarding the reduction of risk for the storage of Dangerous Goods?
- Do the exemptions for Dangerous Goods apply to the goods you hold?
- Do you employ workers who handle Dangerous Goods?
- Are visitors to your premises protected from the effects of Dangerous Goods?
- Do you have workers who handle Hazardous substances?
- If so, do you abide by your specific and general duties to those workers?
- Do you abide by the duties under OHS laws towards visitors?
|Farm activity or situation||On-farm obligations or implications|
For more information contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 or visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au
Employers must provide a safe working environment for their workers, so far as is reasonably practicable. In addition to protecting the safety of your workers, you also must ensure that other people (such as drivers, visitors, contractors and the general public) are not exposed to risks as a result of your business.
You also have specific duties in relation to hazards such as:
|Duties of self-employed persons||Self-employed persons have the same duties as an employer.|
|Volunteers||The OHS Act requires employers and self-employed persons to protect the health and safety of people from risks associated with their organisation's operations.|
|Consultation||Employers have a duty to consult employees and health and safety representatives when identifying hazards and deciding on control measures.|
|Worker injury and employer responsibility||
If your worker has a work-related injury or illness, you have duties under the Accident Compensation Act 1985, one of which is to ensure their safe return to work. The employer's obligations include:|
|Manual handling||Manual handling is the biggest cause of injuries in Victorian workplaces. Employers have a duty to identify manual handling hazards, control the risk and regularly review risk control measures.|
|Noise||The noise part of the OHS Regulations is intended to prevent hearing loss and injury resulting from exposure to excessive levels of noise in the workplace. Employers must ensure employees are not exposed to noise that exceeds the national exposure standard. If you are uncertain about whether the noise exposure standard is being exceeded in your workplace, you must carry out testing and make a determination, as described in the Regulations. Contact the WorkSafe Advisory Service on 1800 136 089 or visit www.worksafe.vic.gov.au for more information.|
|Prevention of falls|
You must identify any task where a person may fall more than two metres.
If it is reasonably practicable, you must eliminate the risk by doing the work on the ground or on a solid construction. If this is not practicable, you must control the risk using the following measures in order of priority:
You must identify hazards associated with work in any confined spaces at your workplace and eliminate any risk involved. If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, you must reduce the risk, as far as reasonably practicable, taking into account:|
|Plant and machinery|
You must identify hazards associated with plant and eliminate any risk involved.
If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, you must reduce the risk, as far as reasonably practicable, by:
If there is still a risk after using these methods, you should reduce it by using administrative controls or personal protective equipment. You must review (and, where necessary, revise) your risk controls if things change or at the request of a health and safety representative. Employers must also comply with a number of specific risk control duties covering:
High risk work (e.g. forklift|
Since 1 July 2008, all forklift operators working in primary production and forestry operations have been required to hold a Licence to Perform High Risk Work. The operation of a tractor with a mast attachment is excluded from the regulations and does not require a licence. The new licensing system
Four-wheeled motorbikes or quadbikes are becoming a leading cause of death and serious injury on Australian farms. Farmsafe Australia encourage the following safety principles:|
|Hazardous substances and materials|
As an employer you have the following duties in relation to hazardous substances:
You must eliminate any risks associated with hazardous substances in your workplace.
If it's not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, you must reduce the risk, as far as reasonably practicable, by:
You must review (and, where necessary, revise) your risk controls if things change and there is likely to be an increase in the risk to health, if medical reports show there is a problem or at the request of a health and safety representative. Some hazardous substances are prohibited for specific purposes, such as the use of abrasives containing crystalline silica for abrasive blasting. If any of the hazardous substances you use are scheduled carcinogens, you must hold a licence to use them. For licensing enquiries, contact the WorkSafe Licensing Branch on 1300 852 562 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Obtain and provide information on hazardous substances
Employers are required to:
Identify hazardous substances in plant
You must ensure that hazardous substances contained in a piping system, process vessel or plant that forms part of a manufacturing process are identified to anyone who may be exposed to them. You can do this by using a colour-coded sign system that follows the Australian Standard AS 1345 for Identification of Contents of Pipes, Conduits and Ducts.
Conduct atmospheric monitoring and health surveillance
Employees must not be exposed to an atmospheric concentration of a hazardous substance that exceeds any relevant exposure standard. If there is uncertainty about whether the exposure standard could be exceeded, you must carry out atmospheric monitoring, provide the results of the monitoring to employees and keep a record of the results and give the results of the monitoring to the employees involved. You must also provide health surveillance for employees exposed to certain hazardous substances and keep a record of the results.
|Chemical storage and record keeping||See Chemical Management booklet in this series|
Fuel storage tanks must be safe and well maintained. To eliminate the risk of fire within the storage area, ensure that all tanks and hoses are in a good working condition that does not allow any leaks. The area should be clear of any incompatible materials. A well-designed fuel storage facility should
Engulfment and being suffocated by grain from collapsed field bins and silos has resulted in farm deaths and injury. Poorly designed grain storage areas see many workers and bystanders electrocuted, entangled in augers, hit and run-over by trucks and vehicles or falling and being trapped in silos.
Ensure you consider a safe work site when planning or upgrading a grain storage facility.
A well-designed grain complex should include:
|Drugs and alcohol|
The use of illicit drugs and alcohol within the workplace results in an increased risk of injury.
No machinery, vehicles or equipment are to be operated under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Some prescription drugs will impact on people's work performance and particularly their ability to operate machinery. They should seek medical advice where necessary.
To ensure a safe workplace, no person should arrive at the workplace under the influence of drugs or alcohol or consume drugs or alcohol within the workplace.
|Children on farms||
About 20 children under 15 years are fatally injured on an Australian farm every year and many more are hospitalised or treated by General Practitioners across rural Australia. The major causes of child deaths and injuries on farms are dams, farm vehicles, machinery, motorcycles and horses. Age and
development characteristics also place children at greater risk.|
Working long hours, and operating plant and machinery without regular breaks, increases fatigue. Fatigue also increases the probability of an accident occurring that may result in serious illness, injury or death.|
Identify the risk and implement control strategies including shorter shifts, rotating staff, or introducing rest periods. If you are getting overtired at work, it may be because of general health issues or you are not getting enough good sleep or appropriate nutrition.
|Personal protective equipment (PPE)||
PPE must be provided and worn where:|
Ensure the PPE is the correct equipment for the hazard to be controlled. Use labels and Material Safety Data Sheets as a guide when selecting appropriate PPE for handling and using chemicals. Check with your supplier or manufacturer that they meet the appropriate Australian Standards. PPE may include:
Ensure the PPE is used in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions and labels. PPE should fit properly and be comfortable for the wearer.
Worksafe Victoria: To report serious workplace emergencies contact the 24 hour emergency response line on 13 23 60.
WorkSafe Advisory Service:
Phone: (03) 9641 1444 or 1800 136 089 (toll free); e-mail: email@example.com; web: www.worksafe.vic.gov.au
For licensing enquiries, contact the WorkSafe Licensing Branch on 1300 852 562 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Worksafe Victoria publications (available from website. See 'forms and publications')
- Your health and safety guide to Controlling OHS hazards and risks
- Your health and safety guide to Plant
- Your health and safety guide to Manual handling
- Your health and safety guide to Falls
- Sun protection
- Your health and safety guide to Noise
- Your health and safety guide to Confined spaces
- Your health and safety guide to Hazardous substances
- Your health and safety guide to Dangerous goods
- Your health and safety guide to Workplace amenities and first aid
- Farm Safety Checklist, The 15 Minute
- Farm Safety – what are you doing about it?
- Hazardous Chemicals on the Farm
- Using Farm Chemicals Safely
- GN9 – The Role of Health And Safety Reps
- Falls Prevention Farm Forest Pruning
- Ag bike safety
- Tractors and Machinery
- Quad bikes on farms checklists
- Quad bikes – Operators wearing helmets
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC):
A range of valuable publications at https://rirdc.infoservices.com.au
- Occupational Health and Safety Risk in the Australian Dairy Industry – The Facts – 2007
- OHS A Quick Reference Guide For Broadacre Agriculture
- Traumatic Deaths in Australian Agriculture - the Facts - 2007
- Health and Safety of Older Farmers in Australia - The Facts - 2007
- ATV Injury on Australian farms - The Facts - 2007
- Occupational Health and Safety Risk in the Australian Dairy Industry – The Facts – 2007
Phone: (02) 6752 8218; e-mail: email@example.com; web: www.farmsafe.org.au
Victoria Police (re firearms): www.police.vic.gov.au
For information on OHS training for your workplace:
Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Training (COHST) Swinburne University of Technology – www.tafe.swin.edu.au/ahs/cohst/course/ohs-farmers.html
HortiSafe™ – www.hortisafe.com.au
ISBN 978-1-74264-486-8 (print)
ISBN 978-1-74264-487-5 (online)
This publication may be of assistance to you but the State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.
Contact us for more information.