Work health and safety laws and agriculture

This page is for: 
Employee / workerEmployer

Everyone in the workplace, including those working on a farm, have duties under work health and safety (WHS) laws.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2020 (WHS Act) and associated Work Health and Safety (General) Regulations 2022 came into effect in March 2022 and so if you haven’t already, it’s a good time to check that your safety processes are up-to-date. It is useful to involve family members and workers so everyone becomes familiar with identifying risks.

Work health and safety (WHS) laws require that reasonably practicable controls are put in place to protect everyone at a workplace. The term ‘reasonably practicable’ refers to what could be reasonably done at a particular time and involves considering the likelihood of exposure to a hazard, degree of harm, what is known about the hazards, and ways of eliminating or minimising risk.

WHS Act and regulations

The WHS Act and accompanying regulations came into effect on 31 March 2022.

Download the Act Download the regulations

Main responsibilities and duties

Under WHS laws, there are specific duties for: 

  • a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) 
  • an officer
  • a WHS service provider

There are also certain things workers need to do to help keep workplaces healthy and safe.

What is a PCBU?

A PCBU is a person that conducts a business or undertaking, whether it is for profit or not for profit, alone or with other PCBUs, at a single site or in multiple locations. For example a farmer or farmer owner.

This definition is designed to cover working relationships whether they are a traditional employee-employer relationship, an employer-contractor relationship, a contractor-subcontractor relationship, a volunteer-worker relationship or so on.

Find out more about the WHS duties of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU).

Who is an officer under WHS?

Officers are people who make, or participate in making decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part of an organisation's activities. Because they have the power to make decisions that affect an organisation's activities, officers have influence over a workplace's health and safety.

Examples of officers of a PCBU include chief executive officers, chief financial officers, corporate directors and corporate executives. They might not own the company, but because of their positions within the corporate structure, they have the power to make significant decisions that affect business activities.

Find out more about WHS duties and responsibilities of an officer.

What is a WHS service provider? 

A WHS service provider provides services that relate to work health and safety including any products or things provided as part of those services. A WHS service involves an activity that assists or enhances the ability of another PCBU to meet their WHS duties.

The WHS service could be providing any of the following that relate to work health and safety:

  • recommendations or other advice
  • testing or analysis
  • information or documents including a report, plan, programme, strategy, guideline or manual
  • training or other educational course.

For more information about WHS Service providers and their responsibilities.

Who is considered a worker?

A worker is any person who carries out work for a PCBU, including work as an employee, contractor, subcontractor, self-employed person, outworker, apprentice or trainee, work experience student, employee of a labour hire company placed with a ‘host employer’ and volunteers.

For more information on the duties and responsibilities of workers and others at the workplace.

If you have volunteers working on your farm, see responsibilities of volunteers and volunteer organisation at the workplace.

Codes of practice

Codes of practice provide detailed information on how you can achieve the standards required under WHS laws. 

Codes of practice do not replace the law, but can help you understand what you need to do to comply with specific regulations and provide a healthy and safe workplace.

Download approved codes of practice.

Looking for more guidance?

WorkSafe have put together guides, information sheets, videos and animations to help you understand WHS laws.

WorkSafe publications and resources.

Last modified: