WHS duties

Everyone working in agriculture has work health and safety duties. Persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) must manage the health and safety risks at work. 

Everyone in the workplace has WHS duties under the model WHS Act.  

You have specific duties if you are: 

  • a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) 
  • a principal contractor 
  • a designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier and installer of plant, substances or structures 
  • an officer. 

Workers must take: 

  • reasonable care of their own health and safety, and
  • reasonable care that the health and safety of others is not put at risk by what they do and don’t do when working in agriculture.

You must comply with reasonable WHS instructions given to you by the PCBU and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedures relating to health and safety. 

The model WHS Regulations have duties that apply to agricultural work. This includes managing risks of powered mobile plant, hazardous manual tasks, hazardous chemicals and working outside. Licences are also required for certain types of work, so you’ll need to confirm whether any are needed.

As a PCBU, you must, so far as is reasonably practicable:  

  • ensure the health and safety of workers and others (including your family and visitors) at work (including at your workplace)  
  • consult with workers who carry out work for the business or undertaking and who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a health and safety matter, and 
  • consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other duty holders who owe a duty about the same matter.  

As many farms are also family homes, children, family and visitors can be exposed to many of the occupational risks and hazards associated with agriculture as a workplace. You owe WHS duties to these people as well as your workers.

You must prepare and maintain an emergency plan for your workplace. You must also ensure workers have access to first aid equipment and trained first aid officers whenever they are at work.

Duty to manage risks in agriculture 

You must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate or minimise risks associated with forestry work. This involves: 

  • identifying hazards—find out what could go wrong and what could cause harm. 
  • assessing risks if necessary—understand the harm each hazard could cause, how serious the harm could be and the likelihood of it happening. 
  • controlling risks—implement the most effective control measures that are reasonably practicable in the circumstances. 
  • reviewing control measures to ensure they are working as planned. 

You must always first aim to eliminate hazards. 

If elimination is not possible, you must minimise the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, for example: 

  • choose the safest equipment for your farm and maintain it 
  • choose the safest chemicals and follow the manufacturer’s instructions 
  • ensure workers and visitors are aware of the risks and hazards at the workplace 
  • ensure workers have the skills to work safely – for example, when handling animals and using farm equipment 
  • closely supervise new and inexperienced workers.