Farm advice: A healthy workplace

Tips to manage the health and safety of your employees on farm

It’s been over a year since the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force. In dairy farming, most of us have moved to improve safety on farm. As a minimum, most farmers have identified the biggest dangers and taken action to reduce the risk of people getting hurt. But what are we doing about health?

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Health on farm explained

The expectation under the legislation is that an employee’s health does not deteriorate because of work activities. That means employers must take steps to prevent staff becoming ill due to their work environment. Remember, while some risks might seem minor, they might have a serious impact over time. Some key situations to be aware of:

  • Noise levels that could result in hearing deterioration
  • Becoming infected with leptospirosis from farm animals. Leptospirosis can make people seriously ill and most often is contracted through direct or indirect contact with urine from infected animals.
  • Mental health issues that might result from long working hours or workplace pressures
  • The correct method of lifting to ensure protection of back/spine/shoulders
  • Wearing appropriate masks and other gear to reduce the risk of dust/agrichemicals being inhaled

Health initiatives on farm

Under the legislation, a farm business should: 

  • Identify key health risks to staff and have in place measures to eliminate (or minimise) effects
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) that’s in good condition and always encourage its use. This includes things such as helmets, masks, ear protection and gloves.
  • Be certain that the workplace environment is healthy and machinery/systems do not provide undue risk
  • Include staff in healthy workplace planning and make sure they know how to manage risks, training and supervising them appropriately
  • Monitor the health of staff to prevent illness, and monitor potential deterioration in health through regular testing of hearing, lung function, etc.

Common provisions for staff health

Some of the common provisions for staff health include:

  • Free sunscreen for employees
  • Free flu vaccinations
  • Rotating work tasks between staff to avoid repetitive actions
  • Rosters that allow for adequate rest and time off work and allow staff to plan for their leisure time
  • Encouraging employees to have healthy behaviours such as nutritious meals, plenty of sleep, regular exercise, and activities off-farm

Minimising work-related health impacts

If you’re just starting to think about minimising work-related impacts on the health of your staff, begin with these three things:

  • Manage fatigue: Review your roster to ensure the staff doesn’t work excessive hours. Visit dairynz.co.nz/rosters for new, smarter ways to roster hours of work.
  • Wear PPE: Make a new policy starting today that everyone wears personal protective equipment, every time. Why? Because doing so has been proven to prevent illness and injury. Visit dairynz.co.nz/healthandsafety for more information.
  • Look out for each other: If one of your team doesn’t seem quite right, make sure they’re ok. Look out for signs of them being irritable, not sleeping well, a bit low, or losing weight. Saying something like “I’m worried about you. Tell me what’s going on for you” will let them know that you care and should encourage them to share what’s up. 

Further information on wellbeing is available on DairyNZ or for immediate support contact Rural Support Trust on 0800 787 254.

Photography: designer491/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

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