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Don't come a cropper with health and safety

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Ben Coleman
01-Nov-2016
Law Changes, People

The responsibility for health and safety on the farm is not only confined to the farmer it includes sharemilkers, contractors, visitors on the farm, and, of course, employees.In April 2016, The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into effect.  The purpose of the Act is to clarify responsibilities within the workplace.  Managing risk in the workplace is nothing new; however, the Act does impose an obligation on a number of persons including any Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU).

The definition of PCBU is wide and encompasses business entities whether an individual, company, partnership, or trust.

The PCBU is obligated to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons within the business or workplace.  A PCBU must minimise risk where reasonably practicable. What is reasonably practicable will depend on the likelihood of the hazard or risk occurring as well as the degree of harm that may result from the risk or hazard. The term ‘reasonably practicable’ means what is or was reasonably able to be done at a particular time to ensure the health and safety of persons in the workplace.  In essence, the greater the risk, the more practical steps must be taken to minimise that risk.

A PCBU must ensure that contractors are aware of potential risks that they may be exposed to on the property and be satisfied that a contractor is taking appropriate steps to manage such risks. In the event that you feel that the contractor is conducting activities in an unsafe manner, you are under an obligation to stop them until you are satisfied that the activity is performed in a safe manner.

The Act also introduced the concept of Officers, which includes positions related to the business encompassing chief executives, directors, board members, partners and trustees. Officers have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU meets their obligations under the Act. Officers must ensure that the PCBU is properly resourced to ensure that they can take reasonably practicable steps to minimise risk to persons within the workplace.

At any given time a farm may be visited by other persons which may include independent contractors and members of the public for recreational purposes. The PCBU has a duty to all farm visitors that venture into the workplace to identify and manage risk. It is important to remember that the workplace includes farm buildings and the surrounding areas and where work is being carried out on the farm at that time. The homestead, however, is an exception to the rule.The PCBU has no duty to ensure the safety of visitors on the farm who are there for an unlawful purpose. It is important to remember there is a distinction between unlawful purpose and without authority. Therefore, a visitor crossing your farm may not have your authority to be there but if they are there for a lawful purpose you would be under a duty to ensure their safety in the event that they are in the workplace.

Any breaches of your duties under the Act whether reckless or not can lead to substantial penalties up to and including terms of imprisonment and fines.

CONCLUSION:

Health and safety is the responsibility of everyone in the workplace.  If you are a PCBU or have influence over the management of the business or undertaking then you are responsible and will be accountable under the Act. Take care to ensure you are proactive in fulfilling your obligations.  We can advise you specifically so please don’t hesitate to contact us.