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What farm businesses need to know about workers’ compensation and safety

Published 14 July 2022

Looking after your workers and maintaining a safe and healthy workplace is a legal obligation, and reducing operational risks in your farming business can help reduce your workers’ compensation insurance premiums. But work safety on rural properties can be a complex challenge with multiple factors involved: location, working with machinery, chemicals and animals and livestock diseases or handling injuries ‒ and proximity to hospitals.

Proactive risk management of farm workers’ health and safety exposures involves a two-step process: assessment of the risks involved and worker competencies in these areas, then the necessary measures to address them. 
 

 

Farm business workplace safety management starts with recognising risks

Typical safety risk exposures might include livestock where worker experience, level of competency, animal handling and knowledge, and appropriate matching of people to tasks can make the difference between high and low risks. Training and teaching of necessary skills are also important factors in animal handling such as mustering and herd or flock management.

The use of heavy machinery, motorbikes and specialised equipment calls for the same considerations, with particular focus on competency and holding relevant certification where required. 

Farm machinery also should be maintained to high operational standards with features such as reversing alerts, roll bars, cab noise reduction and first aid kits fitted and checked regularly.

Conducting or having an external expert conduct a routine safety inspection of the property and plant can help provide assurance of controlled and safe working conditions. The Gallagher Workplace Risk team can identify your operational risks and areas for improvement, which may assist with achieving savings on premium.
 

Farm safety workplace incident response planning and protocols 

A safety incident causing personal injury is a test of planning and process: not only in immediate response to the situation – such as knowing how to quickly access emergency medical care ‒ but also in having protocols in place for 

  • recording incidents and near misses
  • taking remedial action to avoid future occurrences 
  • a communications system that keeps all workers in contact
  • contact information for ambulance, fire, police and emergency services
  • coordinate information for aircraft and the location of the property
  • having a post-injury or illness rehabilitation and return to work framework.
     

Managing environmental risks for workers on farm properties

The health aspect of livestock farming includes animal generated diseases like Q Fever as well as environmental risks like melioidosis (Whitmore’s disease), a condition caused by a bacterium that naturally occurs in tropical and sub-tropical areas. 

The type of accommodation and hygiene arrangements provided to farm workers is another form of care, as is active promotion of the use of protective clothing and sunblock. These might include

  • safe and clear access to work areas
  • shelter where they can take breaks and eat meals
  • clean drinking water
  • access to a first aid kit – and a person with appropriate training.

Looking after your workers helps prevent losing valuable talent and skills to a competitor, or the worker exiting the industry completely. Being able to provide sensible, workable solutions to risks, as well as documentation of your health and safety risk management plans and procedures is well regarded by insurers and may contribute to containing premium costs.
 

Returning to work after injury while employed as a farm worker

When one of your workers is injured, as an employer you must provide a return to work plan that shows that you will

  • take all reasonable steps to provide the injured worker with suitable employment
  • give a proposal in writing for a return to work plan, developed and agreed between the employer and worker for any injury that involves incapacity of more than 28 days
  • as far as practicable, participate in efforts to retrain the injured worker
  • assist the injured worker with their rehabilitation program.

This is another area where Gallagher can help with developing a return to work plan.
 

Workers’ compensation for farm properties employees

Generally farm workers such as shearers, milkers, drovers and tractor drivers are covered by workers’ compensation insurance if they are injured in the course of their employment or become ill as a result of their work activities. 

In addition to loss of wages compensation may include other entitlements such as medical expenses and rehabilitation, and under the worker’s terms of employment such as provided accommodation. Share farmers may also be covered under the terms of their contracts.
 

How Gallagher can help

Since workers' compensation insurance is provided under different models, depending on your state or territory, in some areas you may choose the provider, or opt for one of a list of approved providers. 

Our Workplace Risk team can help you understand how your workers’ compensation insurance is performing and also assist with navigating the often complex and technical claims and injury management process to reach an optimal resolution.
 

Further reading

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Gallagher provides insurance, risk management and benefits consulting services for clients in response to both known and unknown risk exposures. When providing analysis and recommendations regarding potential insurance coverage, potential claims and/or operational strategy in response to national emergencies (including health crises), we do so from an insurance and/or risk management perspective.
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