First steps to farm safety

Farms are unique workplaces. The combination of hazards and the nature of the work makes agriculture one of the most dangerous sectors in which to work. This guide provides farmers with a foundation for establishing good safety practices on your farm. The checklists in this guide are not extensive and cover key points to get started.

First steps to farm safety

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When you work on the farm every day, you know what you have to do to get the job done. Farmers are practical and more often than not, find a way to solve a problem. Everything keeps going, perhaps until the day it doesn’t, or someone less familiar with your vehicle, machine, equipment or animals tries to get your solutions to work for them. Good risk management not only protects yourself and your workers, but it also ensures that your business doesn’t stop.

Plant and machinery


No matter how long you have been working with tractors, it’s important to remember that they are powerful machines that can cause serious injury and death.

  • Always wear a seat belt where fitted.
  • Fit a roll-over protective structure (ROPS) and falling object protective structure (FOPS) to protect the operator.
  • Don’t park on a steep slope.
  • Check clearance of overhead power lines.

Quad bikes

Quad bikes have become a popular vehicle on farms, but they are also the leading cause of fatalities on Australian farming properties. The majority of injuries result from sideways, backward and forward rollovers, trapping or crushing the driver underneath.

The most common cause of death is due to entrapment and inability to breathe under the weight of an overturned bike (up to 400 kg). An operator protective device, also called a roll-over protective structure (ROPS), helps prevent crushing in the event of rollover.

Consider whether a quad bike is the most suitable vehicle for the task. A side-by-side, ute or tractor may be more suitable for some tasks.

  • Wear a helmet when riding.
  • Fit a roll-over protective structure.
  • Carry loads in accordance with the operator’s manual.
  • Avoid uneven, steep and muddy areas.
  • Provide training for operators. 

Working at height

Using ladder

Falls from height can have devastating consequences, even from relatively low heights.

The type of work that can be safely performed on a ladder is limited. There are many different types of ladders, so choose one which is suitable for the job. Other methods of access such as scaffolding or an elevating work platform should be considered for difficult tasks or work at height.

  • Maintain 3 points of contact when using a ladder (2 hands and 1 foot or 2 feet and 1 hand).
  • Check rungs for damage before use.
  • Only use a ladder on stable ground.
  • Ensure ladder has a pitch of about 1:4 (1 metre out to 4 metres up).
  • Ensure compliance with load rating. 

Working on platforms, walkways and roofs

Ensure suitable edge protection is in place to prevent falls from elevated work areas, or have a competent person install an anchor point so that a harness can be used when you are working at heights.

Rather than climbing, consider other measures, such as using an elevating work platform, or using a drone to inspect the top of equipment or buildings. Ensure crawl boards are available if working on a roof.

Working on fragile roofing materials such as asbestos or fibreglass presents a serious hazard. They can fracture without warning and you or a worker could fall through the roof, suffering serious or even fatal injuries.

  • Ensure edge protection is used where there is a risk of a fall from height.
  • Provide a safe way of getting onto and down from roofs.
  • Ensure the roof or platform is strong enough to support the weight of people, tools and materials. 

Machinery and guarding

Plant and machinery: General maintenance

All farms need to manage the risks of injury that come with using agricultural plant and machinery. By thinking about what you do on a daily basis and what equipment you use, you will better manage the risks which are part of your everyday farming activities.

Regular inspections should be arranged for all machines and powered equipment by someone who knows about the hazards and work practices needed to work with agricultural plant. Service, maintain and repair your equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.

  • Pre-start checks are conducted.
  • Ensure maintenance is undertaken by a competent person.
  • Tag and lock out plant being worked on.
  • Ensure plant is isolated and stored energy released.


One of the risks of working with agricultural plant is the chance of coming into contact with or getting trapped between moving parts or materials, or being hit by material thrown from the machine.

Provide guards where agricultural plant parts are within reach and could become hazardous during operation, routine maintenance or adjustment.

  • Guarding prevents access to dangerous parts of plant. 
  • Augers are only used with guarding in place.
  • Guarding is in place on hoppers with auger screws.
  • Do not remove guard during operation.
  • Workers are instructed in safe procedures related to guarding.

Electrical hazards

Power lines, power points, switchboards and RCDs

Electrical hazards associated with all electrical power cords, fittings, machinery, tools and equipment need to be identified. Assess each hazard for the likelihood and severity of possible injury or harm, and develop safe work procedures to control them. Any suspect items should be immediately put out of use, tagged out and either isolated or kept in a safe place until repaired or discarded.

Residual current devices (RCDs), which switch off immediately when electricity ‘leaks’ to earth at a level harmful to a human, offer a high level of personal protection from electric shock.

  • Check the location of overhead and underground power lines before work starts.
  • Inspect, check and test electrical installations regularly.
  • Keep flammable chemicals more than 1 metre away from sources of energy.
  • Waterproof or protect outside power boards from water.
  • Clearly label main isolation switches and RCDs, and make sure they’re accessible. 

Electrical tools: Plugs, leads and damage

A competent person, such as an electrician, should inspect and test wiring, cords, plugs, tools and equipment regularly.

Check electrical equipment for obvious external damage and look out for shorting or sparking fittings.

Tools should not be used if the casings, cords or plugs are broken or damaged.

  • Inspect tools and leads for damage.
  • Use heavy duty extension leads that are suitable for the work environment.
  • Ensure appropriate PPE is worn when using electrical tools.
  • Fit RCDs to electrical installations where handheld and portable electrical tools are used. 

Hazardous chemicals

Safe storage and transport

Most farmers handle, use, store and transport hazardous chemicals for a range of activities.

Hazardous chemicals are those that have been classified as such under the Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). Examples include fuels, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), pesticides, some herbicides, fertilisers, acids and industrial gases.

  • Containers are clearly labelled.
  • Chemicals are stored in a well ventilated and lockable area.
  • Chemicals are kept upright when storing and transporting.
  • Segregate chemicals by storing apart. 

Safe handling 

A hazardous chemical’s label has advice on safe handling and information about the chemical’s identity and toxicity. A register containing a list of all hazardous chemicals and your SDS must be maintained at your property and be accessible and understood by workers.

  • Workers have been trained to handle chemicals safely.
  • A hazardous chemical register is kept at the workplace.
  • SDS are available for chemicals in the workplace.
  • Emergency eye wash stations and showers are immediately available and maintained.
  • Appropriate PPE is provided to workers handling chemicals (safety glasses, face shield, gloves, apron, masks or respirators). 

Visitor safety

Child and visitor safety

Children want to get involved in everything, especially on farms. However, when their natural curiosity is combined with a narrow range of vision and an underdeveloped sense of danger, a farming property can be a dangerous place.

The mix of home, work and recreation on a farm creates a complex risk environment. It is not always possible to remove the risk, but adults must limit access to hazards for young family members, as well as farm visitors.

Major risks to children on farms include:

  • falls from plant and machinery
  • drowning in dams, tanks and creeks
  • guns or chemicals
  • tractors, motorbikes, quad bikes or other farm machinery
  • contact with livestock.

For child and visitor safety, make sure:

  • All visitors are provided with an induction to farm safety.
  • Children have a safe, fenced off play area away from moving vehicles, livestock and other hazards.
  • Children are not carried in the back of utes, tractors, trucks or trailers without appropriate seating. 
  • Children are not allowed to ride on or operate adult quad bikes. 

Notifying incidents to WorkSafe

Call 1800 678 198 to report a workplace related death, a serious injury or illness, or a dangerous incident that is currently life-threatening.

These incidents must all be reported to WorkSafe immediately after the PCBU becomes aware of the incident. Urgent medical assistance where required should be sought prior to contacting WorkSafe. After phoning through the report, use the links below if you need to notify online.

There is a duty to preserve the scene so far as reasonably practicable.

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