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Health and Safety News

Safe and Sound Compliance

Monday, December 21, 2015

New health and safety legislation will be enacted in April next year. The big question is: what effect will it have on farmers? Country-Wide writers investigate.

Health and safety compliance is a big concern among farmers. That’s not surprising given the publicity following some of the recent WorkSafe New Zealand farm-related prosecutions.

In a recent Federated Farmers farm confidence survey it was the next most significant concern after commodity and farmgate prices. It’s left many farmers feeling confused and anxious about what exactly is needed to meet their legal requirements.

What are farmers’ obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and its successor, the Health and Safety at Work Act, which comes into force on April 4, 2016?

WorkSafe agriculture programme manager Al McCone said under the current act there were only two documents legally required – an accident register and a list of all the hazardous substances on the farm. But when the new act comes into force farmers would also need to keep a notifiable events register recording fatalities, serious injuries and illnesses.

McCone said the bottom line is to have a system that identifies and manages workplace risks created onfarm.

“It doesn’t need to be complex, it just needs to clearly identify risks and record the steps put in place to manage and communicate these.”

It’s not mandatory but McCone and Feds said that committing a plan to paper is the only fail-safe way to prove health and safety risks were being managed in a systematic way. A plan needs to include a hazard register and an emergency plan for dealing with accidents or weather events that require employees to evacuate a workplace, according to Feds. It should include staff training records for the operation of vehicles and equipment that requires a level of skill and competency to use.

WorkSafe agriculture programme manager Al McCone.

There needs to be an accident and incident register recording incident details and the steps taken to prevent future accidents. McCone endorsed this recommendation but said a compliant paper alone does not make an effective health and safety system.

“Compliance drives minimum behaviour and that’s never going to change anything.”

WorkSafe’s goal is for farmers to start thinking and acting beyond the rules. McCone holds up DairyNZ’s sustainable dairying workplace action plan as a good example of this.

“It recognises more the people-part of farming. The barebones is that everybody should be talking about it but also factors that indirectly affect worker safety such as working conditions, hours and accommodation and training. If you get those right, the communication right and the people involved the accidents tend to reduce.”

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