John Brosnan explains why intensifying workplace laws means there are no longer any 'family farms' and they can't be an extension of a backyard playground

John Brosnan explains why intensifying workplace laws means there are no longer any 'family farms' and they can't be an extension of a backyard playground

By John Brosnan*

It’s a new year on farm.

You have negotiated the Christmas and the New Year breaks with the team, so now is a good time to take a breath and consider – what next?

Well first out the gate will be the new WorkSafe legislation which comes into force 1st April this year. Are you prepared for this? Have you prepared an operational plan and put in place a robust health and safety policy? Do you and all your employees have a means to adhere to it?

If you require assistance with what is expected, check out the www.worksafe.govt.nz website, click on the agricultural tab, there is plenty of valuable information there.

The key items on farm include:

  • Do you have robust orientation and training procedures in place, for both the farm and for the use and operation of all the farm equipment and machinery? Are you and your team required to wear safety apparel or safety helmets? Does health and safety feature regularly in your work place meetings?
  • Do you have in place and adhere to a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy?
  • Do you have registers set up to show that you have everything in place?

Though you may not personally agree with all the changes in the worksafe legislation and wish to hark back to the days when kids climbed trees and rode on trays and trailers – the reality is that this will become the law now and as an employer you are going to be held accountable to the new legislation. By ensuring that you are compliant, you’ll avoid any unnecessary expenditure or wasting your precious surplus cash on fines.

Second on the list are the effects of the Employment Compliance Bill when it comes into play.

It is crucial that you have in place the right employment agreements with your staff and you maintain your records accurately. This includes the necessity of staff to complete their timesheets, if this is not in place, then you’ll need to ensure that it is.

Again I can hear the disgruntled sounds from those who “have never done this” but this won’t be seen as a means of defense, should an issue be raised and you are investigated. So the best choice is to ensure you are compliant.

With the changes in legislation fast approaching, now is a good time to have these two important aspects sorted on farm.


John Brosnan is a business development adviser at CooperAitken Ltd, accountants in Morrinsville and Matamata. He is running seminars on these issues. You can contact him here

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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I'm thinking the best solution for those who can, is to sell up and take their skills to another country. Wave after wave of bureaucracy is overwhelming many of us.
A death on a neighbouring farm last night , looks like quad related. I guess it is the end of quads on my farm. I just don't believe more government red tape has ever solved a problem, just look at the leaky home saga, one that is on going.
Some people appear perfectly able to stick there hands into moving parts or take a quad where it should never go. Regulating this behaviour will never work, a 350 kilo quad lands on you and a plastic helmet won't make much of a difference, although many workers feel invincible with a plastic hat and safety boots on.
I worked on steep country when I was young, tractors,bulldozers, I'm talking when I was 15, never had an accident, steep hills, pulling trees, pushing up fires, no cab no safety equipment. The horses were different, I always had something hurting, I think because my horse had a personality disorder but it was the only one I was given.
The problem appears to be related to peoples ability to think and judge risk ( try and teach that) and many corporates and large farmers working their staff extremely long hours, I have noticed my neighbours work their staff very hard and have a very high turnover rate.
We used to kill over 1500 bulls a year all large and we never had an accident. You cannot regulate brains or get people to think, because there upbringing and schooling never taught it.
Power drives on tractors are very dangerous but now they are covered I find people climb all over them, instead of turning it off.
I know nothing about drugs, I never took them, how do I tell if my worker is and why is it suddenly my responsibility for what he does in his own time? What if he has skills I find hard to replace?
I feel threatened by Health and safety, I don't think the government is going to like the backlash.

I feel very threatened by health and safety too and for the same reasons. The task we have been given is impossible.......the human brain is a moving particle......and we are being asked to be in control of some other person's brain......it is regulated theft of intellectual property and an individuals physical freedom of movement !!

You seem to think the new legislation makes the employer responsible if an employee does something stupid and irresponsible. It does not. It clearly makes individuals responsible for their own safety.

Please take a look at the guidance from Worksafe and make up your mind/take action on the basis of what it actually says rather than what you expect it to say, or what some random on the Internet says that it says.

MdM you seem to assume that everything can be trained for? And I still have to train people in order for them to be responsible for themselves!!

Honestly what have we been breeding and educating in this country?

...I'm sort of wondering why Health & Safey are not prosecuting NZ cricket at the moment? I'm sure if some cocky allowed a worker to use unsafe safety gear they would be all over him. McClenaghan was at work after all. I guess there is some fine print.....

Spot on Andrew

Work safe made it quite clear on a surprise visit here, if something goes wrong you simply must have the paperwork done. The health and safety part was irrelevant to them the total emphasis was paperwork. Scary people on so many levels.

We did a farm stay recently in a converted shearer's quarters. The owners left us a H&S form to read and sign. Yes, paperwork.

And you have to sit down and break every job into minute tasks and then write up your paperwork and follow through with the training/workshops filling in all your registers and getting everyone attending to also sign off.....

Now break down all the components on say milking cows step by step.....whether you walk out to the paddock, use a motor bike, tractor, quad. You must cover each of these steps in your paperwork......and then there different areas of the farm to cover....not all paddocks and tracks are the same, are people wearing appropriate clothing etc...... I think you will find you will have many phone book sized manuals to deal with.

I foresee a burgeoning (always wanted to use that word in a serious comment) cottage industry in the production of 'manuals;, 'signs' (of the 'sign has sharp edges' variety), SOP's etc, etc, and all for a Modest Fee. In fact, the writer of yon Article appears to be in that precise ticket-clipper-ship.

But how, pray tell, can the august Worksafe rulebots determine whether all that verbiage has actually Penetrated, let alone Impacted, a lowly Woiker's Brain?

Common taters with statistical backgrounds might like to - er - commontate.

You need to operate a safe operation. If something bad happens no amount of paper will protect you if what was happening was unsafe. And getting people to sign stuff does not make it safe either.
Concentrate on actual safety first. Bureaucracy second.

It's got nothing to do with safety. It's a tax on work, Writing down procedures is a danger in itself, we will create a generation of morons who can't think on their feet. The reality is that if you have an accident on your farm you will probably be fined anyway regardless of paperwork. There is danger in what we do that can't be totally eliminated. Should a company be fined if a worker gets run over crossing a road leaving the office? I know a company that requires workers to use pedestrian crossings ( it treats adults like children). I am all for safety, I care about the people i employ, but I think we need risk takers to do certain jobs, and if we take no risks we do not learn the boundaries of what is achievable. I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic people during my career with great skill at making very dangerous jobs safe, by understanding these boundaries. You can't learn this stuff by doing government traning courses. You need talent, intuition, brains and you need to be fearless and confident and at the same time cautious and sensible. These people who have worked for me over the years I have great respect for, .....worksafe emplyees?... not so much.

I hear that Worksafe turned up to crown owned Molesworth station and demanded that the shepherds wore helmets while riding their horses. The shepherds told them to get stuffed, and said they would quit their jobs if Worksafe didn't back down. So all but one shepherd resigned and now with the big cattle muster approaching they have one shepherd for 180000 hectares. Will be interesting how this plays out.

It's interesting looking at the quad bike death stats for the year, all the deaths I can recall hearing about involves farmers over 60 years old. Worksafe had an article in the paper, saying they were struggling to figure out why there efforts were not working. Can I suggest that fatigue could be a factor. Older famers that I know, don't like the growing paperwork and bureacracy of employing people or may have high debt and are trying to do everything themselves. Worksafe needs to look at themselves and ask how they might be contributing to farmer fatigue?