Farm work has its share of risks and while health and safety is nothing new, the new health and safety regulations look set to be changing the traditional “she’ll be right” NZ farm culture.

The new regulations which were brought in last year mean farmers are responsible for taking the lead on creating a positive health and safety culture on their farm. Everyone has a role to play but the primary duty of care lies with the farmer. That includes talking with any contract workers that come onto the farm to ensure you’re both aware of any risks and are managing them appropriately.

A team of experts gave advice to farmers on the new act at a recent Northland farm safety.  OnFarm Safety New Zealand managing director Bronwyn Muir encouraged farmers to take ownership of health and safety to keep the people and stock on their farm healthy and safe.

WorkSafe Northland assessment manager Mike Goodison reassured the group that while people were worried about liability regarding the many different visitors such as hunters and trampers, who could be on your land at any time, farmers would not be held responsible for health and safety incidents they didn’t know about.

WorkSafe inspector Mark Coates told attendees that while documentation was necessary, it was possible to have good health and safety programs without keeping onerous records. WorkSafe wasn’t looking for liability when they can see that duties of care for staff were being effectively carried out, he said.

OnSide app co-founder Michael Falconer pointed out while some farmers expressed concern that 100 per cent health and safety compliance was unrealistic, the new legislation was not about ticking boxes but keeping people safe. Falconer also commented that solving health and safety issues improved profitability.

At a similar event at the other end of the country in Invercargill, WorkSafe manager Al McCone also reminded farmers that health and safety was a business decision. McCone said the “she’ll be right” culture was a dangerous way to work. Farmers needed to make the decision to improve their culture on farms, with businesses which are interdependent and working as teams the most effective and safe places to work, McCone said.

Many farmers recognised that planning was needed to keep healthy and safe and understood that regulations and enforcement were necessary for the ones who did not make it a priority. “You make a choice to have a safe place to work,” he said.