Horse & Law - Issue 9

15 December 2014

Health & Safety for Equine Business

New health and safety laws are expected to come into force 1 April 2015. These changes increase obligations on everyone in a work environment. These increased obligations also come with increased penalties. For worst case breaches of health and safety requirements, penalties are up to $600,000 and 5 years imprisonment for individuals and up to $3,000,000 for corporate entities. Yes that is six zeros!

With these reforms it’s a great time to update your health and safety policies and procedures to ensure those penalties never affect you and more importantly to make sure people are kept as safe as possible. The benefits of getting health and safety right include enhanced reputation, decreased business costs through ACC levies and absenteeism, better work culture and most importantly fewer injuries.

Everyone should keep in mind that if you control a workplace your health and safety measures must protect any person entering the workplace. You need to consider individuals and their experience when developing policies. This is especially important when dealing with horses where the experience of a rider has a definite effect on a) the horse and b) the measures that should be in place to protect both the horse and the person. Even a horse’s temperament will affect the measures you take to keep everyone safe.

In all workplaces the best people to identify and implement health and safety measures are the people who have the knowledge and experience of the workplace. This applies even more so in the equine industry where people closest to a horse will know its temperament and vices better than anyone.

There is an obligation to take all reasonably practicable steps to limit risks to health and safety. What is reasonably practicable depends on the circumstances and the hazards involved. Determining what is reasonably practicable means balancing the likelihood and possible consequences of an accident, the knowledge of the person involved, the possible ways to minimize or eliminate the risk and the costs.

Obviously younger or inexperienced workers in equine businesses need a lot more guidance than people raised around horses. But with experience sometimes comes complacency so it is equally important to remind people of best practice and make sure health and safety policies are followed.

From a practical perspective you should at least:

  • Have a robust health and safety policy which takes into account the particular circumstances of the workplace in order to reduce accidents;

  • Have an accidents and near miss record and make sure it is used;

  • Perform workplace orientations with staff on their first day to ensure staff know and will adhere to policies;

  • Ensure proper equipment is used;

  • Advise visitors of risks on arrival and especially before they interact with any horses or hazards;

  • Assess ability before anyone rides; and

  • Implement different levels of hazard control depending on a rider’s experience.

Each workplace is different and will require different controls but a solid health and safety policy is an essential first step. We are here to help you comply with new health and safety requirements and avoid any accidents, injuries and penalties.

Ayla Ronald

Ayla Ronald is a Solicitor with Norris Ward McKinnon and specialises in Employment law, Occupational Health & Safety and Civil Litigation.  She can be contacted at: [email protected] DDI: 834 6158

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