Edmonds Judd

duty of care

Over the fence

Health and safety on farms

Between June 2020 and May 2021, WorkSafe New Zealand recorded 12 workplace fatalities in the agricultural sector, while 2,517 workers in the sector had work-related injuries requiring them to have more than a week off work. Any fatality or serious injury which occurs at a workplace is a tragedy and it is therefore important to have health and policies in place which are fit for purpose and protect both employers and employees.

Although it is not a formal duty, it is the responsibility of all individuals in a workplace to identify any hazards, assess their risk, actively take steps to control that risk and to report any hazards they have identified. There are also specific formal obligations owed by both employers and employees which are summarised as follows:

  • Employers: you have a primary duty of care to your employees. There must be a health and safety policy in place that should be regularly reviewed to ensure that the policy takes into account the constantly evolving risks that your employees face. You must also ensure that the policy is being complied with by, for example, checking that your staff wear the correct safety equipment and that the correct safety measures have been taken with machinery, chemicals and animals.
  • Employees: you must adhere to your workplace’s health and safety policy. You must take reasonable care of your own health and safety, and ensure that you do not cause harm to others in your workplace.

Health and safety on the farm is hugely important. Failing to have proper policies in place and/or failing to comply with these policies can lead to serious fines and/or imprisonment.

If you need help with your farm’s health and safety policy and/or have queries around employment or health and safety laws, please don’t hesitate to be in touch.

Stock control bylaw changes

The Tasman District Council (TDC) has recently proposed changes to its stock control bylaws. If these changes are adopted, there will be major implications for the Tasman rural community.

Some of these proposals align with other districts that have already implemented similar bylaws, however some proposals by the TDC go even further.

The TDC proposes introducing further signage requirements to stock warning signs. If the bylaws are passed, all stock warning signs in the Tasman district must be placed in front of the crossing by a distance equivalent to three times the speed limit of the area. A crossing is any part of the road used for the purpose of driving stock across the road. This aligns with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s guidelines for best sign locations. There are a number of district councils across New Zealand that have implemented similar bylaws.

Perhaps the most controversial proposed bylaw, however, is the obligation that farmers would have to hold livestock 50 metres back from the road’s exit point until all traffic has passed. There are understandably concerns as to the practicality of this proposal.

Public consultation on the proposed stock bylaws remained open until 1 August 2022. The proposed changes will not only affect the Tasman district rural community, but could also influence other councils to update their stock control bylaws.

It is important to understand your legal responsibilities when moving livestock on roads. To learn more about stock bylaws, contact your local council or look at its website for useful summaries on your obligations.

Live export contracts and force majeure clauses

The live export of cattle often means that farmers receive higher prices for their cattle than they would in the domestic market. Despite this, farmers run the risk of incurring significant loss when livestock exporters cannot meet their obligations under a live export contract (contract entered into by a farmer/s and a livestock exporter that records the terms of selling and shipping livestock overseas).

A livestock exporter may be unable to ship cattle overseas if, for example, they are unable to arrange a ship to transport the livestock. This occurred in May 2022 when livestock exporter Genetic Development (NZ) Limited (GDNZ) was unable to arrange a ship to collect 12,000 or so cattle from New Zealand. GDNZ was forced to abandon the contracts it had signed with farmers across New Zealand and relied on a force majeure clause in the respective contracts to do so.

A force majeure clause allows a party to be released from its obligations under a contract when that party is unable to fulfil their obligations due to unforeseeable circumstances. In the GDNZ situation, some farmers had to sell their cattle on the local market at a lower price than they would have received if the cattle had been shipped overseas.

The GDNZ example shows that farmers should carefully review contracts to understand the implications of force majeure clauses and their ability to receive compensation for loss suffered in the event such a clause is invoked.

If you are involved in live export contracts and are unsure about the wording or implications of a force majeure clause, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

DISCLAIMER: All the information published in Rural eSpeaking is true and accurate to the best of the authors’ knowledge. It should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by the authors or publisher for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on this newsletter. Views expressed are those of individual authors, and do not necessarily reflect the view of Edmonds Judd. Articles appearing in Rural eSpeaking may be reproduced with prior approval from the editor and credit given to the source.
Copyright, NZ LAW Limited, 2022.     Editor: Adrienne Olsen.       E-mail: [email protected].       Ph: 029 286 3650