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Manage the health and safety aspects of your business

January 2018

We are all aware of the fact that there are several laws in our country that influences the management of a farming business. The responsibility of management is to manage these laws. 

One of these laws is The Occupational Health and Safety Act (No. 85 of 1993). This law regulates health and safety in the workplace, being your farm. 

Farmers as employers must provide and maintain, as far as is reasonably possible, a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees. However, both employers and employees have a responsibility to ensure that the regulations of this law are carried out properly. 

In this article, we will focus on the responsibilities of the employer. As employers, you

  • must ensure that all employees understand the Act;
  • must furthermore identify potential hazards relating to the type of work being done;
  • establish and enforce precautionary measures to protect employees against potential hazards and provide means to implement these;
  • provide the information, instructions, training and supervision needed for employees to complete their task safely;
  • ensure that the work is done and equipment used are under the general supervision of an employee trained to understand the potential hazards associated with these; and
  • ensure that no employee continues with a task placing him/her at a risk unless the necessary precautionary control measures have been taken.

Should an injury occur and the employer found to be negligent, there could be serious repercussions for the employer. You could be fined a substantial fine and/or face imprisonment and be ordered to rectify the matter. Unqualified repercussions could be that the productivity and attitude of your employees may be affected negatively by regular injuries occurring.

Therefore, it is worthwhile to manage the health and safety aspects of your business. Our approach is stimulated by the proverb ‘prevention is better than cure’. Remember to manage implies that you must plan, organise, implement and control. But to be able to do this you need information – ‘if you do not measure you cannot manage’. In the case of health and safety you will not for instance use a tape to measure but it will be an inspection of all resources on your farm and getting an answer – yes or no – to questions to be asked.

A few examples of questions you must ask yourself in this regard.

Your staff

  • Are your staff properly trained regarding all tools, machinery, equipment and so forth that they use?
  • Do you communicate regularly with your staff regarding matters of health and safety?
  • Do you supply your staff with the necessary protective clothing and enforce proper use of the clothing?


  • Do you have all emergency phone numbers readily available?
  • Do you have all relevant forms available?


  • Are materials and supplies stored so that they can't fall on someone, block his passage nor collapse under a worker climbing over them?
  • Are doors and gates to hazardous places (manure storage, animal quarters, etc.) kept closed and secured to keep children and unauthorised persons out?

Animal facilities

  • Are pens, gates, chutes and fences adequate for the job, sturdy and well repaired?

Grain and silage structures

  • Are drivelines and working parts of filling and unloading machinery well shielded? 


  • Are stationary tools such as grinders, saws, etc. properly guarded? 
  • Is personal protective equipment such as goggles, bump caps, filter respirators, rubber or plastic gloves, ear muffs, shop aprons and welding helmets kept ready available in the shop?
  • Is a fire extinguisher (of the correct type) readily available?

Storage buildings

  • Is the floor surface firm and level and free of obstacles?

Chemical storage

  • Is the storage place well-lit to easily identify chemicals and to read labels?

Fuel storage

  • Are storage areas fenced off and secured?
  • Are workers instructed on rules of safe refuelling such as to shut-off the engine and let it cool a little, not to smoke, to fill the tank carefully to avoid spills and overflowing, to return nozzle to its holder? 

Farm machinery

  • Are shields and guards always in place when operating? 


  • Is a ladder kept in a good condition so that is safe to use and will it be able to carry the weight of an employee?

There are many more questions to be asked. It is advisable to draw up a table with all the questions to be asked. If you do not know how to compile a table, get assistance. For instance, in the course material of Grain SA for the course ‘Farm management for Profits’ there is a table with 125 questions related to all resources on a farm that you may use.

Once you have all the information you can plan and organise and implement to rectify all problem areas to reduce and limit injuries.  

Article submitted by Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributor. For more information, send an email to mariusg@mcgacc.co.za.


Publication: January 2018

Section: Pula/Imvula