Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:

A new approach to reducing harm on the farm

A Quick Summary

  • The aim of the Act is to encourage a pro-active and participative health and safety culture in our workforce.
  •  It increases the penalties for non-compliance and creates a new three tiered hierarchy of offences
  •  It replaces the duties owed by employers and principals like farmers with a broader duty owed by “persons conducting a business or undertaking” (PCBU)
  • It imposes a new due diligence obligation on directors and officers It imposes a new duty to take “reasonably practicable steps”
  • Changes do not directly alter how current insurance policies will respond to claims although Liability Sums Insured $1m or less should be revised immediately


You might have seen the ACC ads on TV recently announcing change is on the way. Behind the high profile marketing campaign are a host of new regulations that will alter the way agribusiness managers and farmers manage safety.


Working towards safer farms and agribusinesses with new legislation

 Since 2008, 120 people have died from work-related farm injuries and 220,000 work days are lost annually due to farm-related injuries, at a cost of more than $26 million a year.  

These very “unhealthy” statistics simply aren’t good enough for a country of our size and there is broad support for the Government’s goal to reduce New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll by 25% by 2020.

A “she’ll be right” attitude to Health and Safety clearly hasn’t worked so on the 4th April this year the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 comes into force with a number of ramifications for agribusiness owners, farmers and employees.


How will the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 help farmers?

The new Act was designed to encourage a more pro-active and participative Health and Safety culture.  WorkSafe New Zealand and ACC are coordinating with agriculture and farming groups to better educate farmers and their employees on how to recognise risks and prevent them before accidents happens. 

If this education is not heeded then the new laws will more severely penalise those found to have breached the Act with the onus placed on farm managers to proactively manage Health and Safety. 

Accidents can easily happen of course, dealing with machinery and animals and extreme weather conditions but under the new Act it is a requirement for farmers to put proper Health and Safety systems and adequate training in place for all employees.


What else do farmers need to know about the Health and Safety at Work Act?

The Act clarifies the duty of farmers managing or controlling workplaces only extends to the farm buildings and structures necessary for the operation of the business and the areas immediately surrounding them. Other parts of the farm are not a workplace, apart from when farm work is being carried out in that part of the farm at the time.  The farm workplace does not include the family home.

A farmer’s duty to manage and control the farm doesn’t apply to recreational users coming onto farm land, apart from when farm work is being carried out in that part of the farm at the time

Non-compliance can result in significant penalties. Under the modified penalty structure an individual can be faced with fines up to $600,000 with terms of up to five years in jail. 


Stay covered as a farm owner or manager

Management Liability and Statutory Liability insurance policies will respond to claims brought for breaches of the Act and there should be no requirement to make any amendments to the existing policies.  While the actual fines remain uninsurable as they have been for some years, the insurance covers any defence costs of a prosecution under the Act and also any reparations that are awarded.

With implementation of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 now here it’s a good time to check you have the right insurance policies in place and talk to one of our specialist rural brokers if you’re not sure.

For more information read Crombie Lockwood’s in depth piece on the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.