The maize harvest is in full swing with contractors working through the night to get the crops off the paddocks and into the stacks or bunkers and then the cultivation and the regrassing takes place. Contractors employ casual staff and operate complex equipment including the combine harvesters, trucks and tractors hauling the bins and large tractors and diggers building the stacks. Each of the operators has special skills to both operate the equipment and the task they are undertaking. Driving a bin truck or tractor to evenly load the bin is a skill and the stack building and compaction is another skill as a poorly formed and compacted stack can reduce the quality of the silage.
The new Health and Safety at Work Act shifts the responsibility for safety on the farm to both the principal contractor and the farm owner. The farm owner has a responsibility to know the contractor has a well-managed health and safety policy and is responsible for advising the contractor of any hazards on the property they may encounter. While the contractors are operating the farmer is responsible for keeping their staff safe around the contractors. The contractor has a responsibility to provide a safe work place for their staff and ensuring all the plant and equipment operated is safe and well maintained. The contractor has a responsibility to ensure the skilled operators have the necessary skills to operate the plant and equipment and they are provided with opportunities to up-skill. Retraining is paramount in any health and safety plan. It is incumbent on the principal contractor to have checked the credentials of the employees and not only hear from the employee they have the skills but to check the source of the skill. The failing to check may make the contractor liable in any accident that results in injury. The farmer should verify the contractors work place safety plan before allowing the contractor on to the property to work.