Managing risks

In agriculture, some risks come from manual tasks, using machinery and vehicles and working with animals. The risks are higher when working in remote areas. You must identify and manage risks to keep yourself and your workers safe.  

The model WHS Regulations set out the hierarchy of control measures to manage risks: 

  • first, eliminate risks by eliminating hazards; this is the most effective control measure –  

  • then substitute hazards with something safer, isolate hazards from people and/or use engineering controls to minimise any risks that have not been eliminated –  

  • then use administrative controls to minimise any remaining risks, and –  

then use personal protective equipment (PPE) to minimise any risks that remain. If these control measures change how your workers do their work, you must: 

  • consult your workers and create safe work procedures 

  • provide training, instructions, information and supervision on the changes 

The model Code of Practice: How to manage work health and safety risks has more information on the risk management process. 

Risks in agriculture 

The most common types of injury in agriculture are: 

  • traumatic joint, ligament, muscle and tendon injuries  

  • wounds, lacerations and amputations  

  • internal organ damage  

  • bone fractures. 

Causes of the injuries include: 

Tractors, aircraft, quad bikes and other vehicles cause over 75% of workplace deaths. 

Other common causes of worker deaths include: 

  • being struck by an animal (usually cattle) 

  • falling from a horse 

  • accidental shooting. 

Risks on farms 

Farm workers are often remote and isolated. This means they: 

  • lift heavy loads or operating machinery without help 

  • can’t always share practices, observe and learn from others 

  • don’t always have help or first aid nearby 

  • may not have mobile phone coverage. 

Farms have many hazards, including:    

  • augers, tractors, motorbikes and quad bikes 

  • chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers 

  • animals 

  • extreme weather. 

Farmsafe Australia has resources and information on safe farming practices. 

Quad bikes and tractors 

Quad bikes and tractors are a major cause of death and serious injury in rural workplaces. You must minimise the risks associated with their use in your workplace. 

Managing risks associated with quad bikes can include: 

  • fitting them with rollover protection 

  • ensuring riders are sufficiently trained and capable of maintaining an active riding technique 

  • not riding or driving across steep slopes to avoid rolling 

  • only using towing attachments when they are suitable for the terrain 

  • not overloading them 

  • never carrying a passenger on a single rider bike 

  • never letting children ride adult quad bikes 

  • always wearing a helmet. 

Under the model WHS Regulations, most tractors must have rollover protection fitted. Falling object protective structures protect workers from being struck by objects. You should also consider fitting tractors with access platforms to prevent serious injury or death from being run over. Consider any potential hazards that could be introduced from any attachments you’re using and ensure you have control measures in place. 

Tractors can overturn on any terrain, but particularly: 

  • on uneven ground 

  • over slopes 

  • near water 

  • when towing or moving loads 

  • travelling at inappropriate speeds.  

Planning for emergencies 

You must make an emergency plan, even if you’re the only person in your workplace.  

Plan and practice an effective response should an emergency happen. 

This includes fire, explosion, medical emergency, rescues, incidents with hazardous chemicals and natural disasters.