Preparing for emergencies

The employer has a legal obligation to ensure the safety of people working on their farm. An essential part of providing a safe work place is being adequately prepared for emergencies. Farms should have an emergency response plan and first aid resources in place to manage emergencies effectively as well as policies for recording and reporting these events.

The requirements for resources and procedures will differ on each farm and will depend on the size of the farm, the activities involved, the risks to health and safety, the distance from emergency medical assistance, the general health of any injured or ill people, the first aid skill level of people on the farm, the presence of children, and the level of emergency communication (e.g. radio, phone, mobile phone).

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Plan for emergencies

The first step in making an emergency response plan for your farm is to identify the potential emergencies. The emergencies that may occur on a dairy farm could include fire, flood, cyclone or severe storms, machinery entrapment, electrical shock, snake or spider bite, chemical exposure, injuries, illness and accidents.
Provide emergency facilities appropriate for the sorts of emergencies that might occur on the farm (e.g. deluge showers, eye washes, fire fighting equipment, first aid kits). The emergency facilities must be located where they are needed, installed correctly, regularly maintained, and access to them kept clear.
Make sure that the correct equipment is available to contain and handle any chemical or other dangerous materials spills that might happen. Refer to the substance material safety data sheets for specific handling and exposure treatment needs.
To help minimise the risk of personal injury or property damage in the event of an emergency, people working on and visiting the farm need to know and understand the emergency procedures and their responsibilities.
Nominate someone (who is on the farm most of the time) to be responsible for emergency coordination and ensure they are trained in emergency control.
Instruct everyone working on the farm in the emergency response procedures – include it in your induction program and make sure that contractors and visitors to the farm also know what to do in an emergency. Everyone should know the location of fire alarms, fire extinguishers and first aid kits; how and where to contact emergency services; and where to safely assemble in the event of an emergency.

Respond to emergencies safely

No one should try to fight fires, deal with spills of hazardous substances, undertake rescues or do anything to control an emergency situation unless they are confident to do so, have been trained in the correct procedures and it is safe to do so.

Dairy Australia’s website has a series of extreme weather information (including bush fire). Resources include a Dairy farm emergency preparedness checklist to help farmers prepare for and reduce the potential for injury and property damage.

Have a procedure for contacting the local emergency services and hospital, ambulance and medical centre. Display the procedure along with the contact telephone numbers near readily accessible and working telephones or other communication systems and at first aid stations.

A map of the location of assembly points, emergency equipment and ‘where you are’ should be displayed with the emergency contacts and at strategic locations such as the dairy, workshop, houses (include rentals) and accommodation supplied to employees. Here is an example of an emergency contact notice to put on a noticeboard.

Set up an emergency information box

Consider setting up an emergency information box located at the farm entrance that includes a property plan, emergency contact listing and chemical register

Inform the local emergency services of changes to the property that could affect emergency procedures for example the location of entrances, lanes and gates. Include the quantity of dangerous and hazardous substances and where they are stored and used.

Evacuation routes in buildings should be clearly marked and kept clear. Nominate evacuation assembly points in a safe place and have alternative assembly points in case the first is affected by the emergency.

Download our checklist to make sure you are prepared to respond to an emergency.

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First aid

First aid includes any emergency care given to an injured or ill person before medical assistance arrives. Due to the often hazardous nature of farming and isolation all people working on the farm should be trained in basic first aid. At least one person should be trained at a senior or level 2 level. Regularly check that your first aid needs are in line with the Workcover code of practice in your state.

In the event of a medical emergency:

  • check for any threatening situation and remove further danger;
  • remain with the injured person and provide appropriate first aid;
  • notify the ambulance services by dialing 000, digital mobile phones can also use 112;
  • designate someone to meet the ambulance and direct it to the location of the casualty;
  • try not to leave the injured person alone; and
  • do not move the injured person unless they are exposed to further injury.

For a guide to basic first aid procedures for managing medical emergencies including burns, severe bleeding, fractures, eye injuries, snake bites and spider bites see the St John Ambulance fact sheets or Download the St John App (iPhone)

Employers should provide and maintain appropriately stocked first aid kits. Ensure that kits are easily accessible, that everyone on the farm is aware of the location of the kits, and that their location is clearly signed. A list of emergency services, telephone numbers and some basic first aid notes should be located with the kits.

First aid kits should also be located in tractors, trucks and utilities.

There are legislative requirements detailing what should be kept in each kit and this will depend on your location and number of people working on the farm. The kit should at least include:

  • band aids;
  • adhesive tape;
  • bandages;
  • eye pad;
  • tweezers;
  • latex gloves;
  • antiseptic wipes;
  • non-adherent and wound dressings;
  • plastic bags;
  • safety pins;
  • scissors;
  • saline solutions;
  • emergency thermal blanket;
  • first aid book and CPR card;
  • disposable resuscitation face shields;
  • disposable gloves.

Include a list of the contents with the kit (usually on the back of the door or lid).

The farm should also have arrangements for looking after someone who becomes sick at work. This may mean providing a rest area, or sending or taking the person home or to a doctor.

Try to avoid people working on their own but when it is unavoidable make sure someone knows where they are on the farm and when they are expected back, that they have a mobile phone or some other means of communication with them and a distress alarm in case of an incident. If no one is about, they should leave a note in a conspicuous place. A whiteboard in the dairy is a good idea.

First aid training is skill building

Consider first aid training as a way of building the skills of people in your farm team.

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Everyone on the farm should be familiar with the location of fire extinguishers, fire hoses and exit points from buildings. Everyone should be aware of which fire extinguisher to use and how to use it. For a listing of extinguishers and what sorts of fires they are suitable for see page 71 of OH & S: A Quick Reference Guide for Broadacre Agriculture

If a fire is detected, immediately raise the alarm. Use the fire extinguisher if it is safe to do so. Never fight a fire alone. To reduce the risk of injury from a fire:

  • have a fire plan;
  • extinguish the fire (only if safe to do so);
  • alert all persons nearby and request assistance;
  • call 000;
  • assemble at the evacuation assembly point and ensure that everyone has been located;
  • assist any person in immediate danger (only if safe to do so);
  • close the door on the fire to contain the spread;
  • if threat to life exists, evacuate immediately closing all doors;
  • maintain control of people at the evacuation assembly area;
  • if you are exposed to smoke or fumes seek medical attention.

Many properties may also be at risk of bush fires. Fire authorities strongly recommend having a bush fire survival plan to be in place. Your local fire authority will assist you with this.

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Hazardous material spills and leaks

Working with chemicals and hazardous and dangerous substances on farm means there is a possibility of spills or leaks and people on the farm should be trained in how to handle these situations.

You may be able to control small leaks or spills yourself. If it is a large leak or spill call the fire brigade on 000 providing as much information about the hazardous material as possible (refer to the material safety data sheet) and move everyone to the evacuation assembly area.

Storage facilities should be constructed to contain spills and leaks; this includes chemicals in use in the dairy, chemical store and mixing area, and fuel storage.

For small leaks or spills from a container, move the container or empty the contents into another container that is safe; isolate the area and keep people away.

Clean up small spills immediately. Avoid contact with skin or breathing vapours or dust by using relevant PPE.

A designated spill control kit should have adequate material to clean up a small spill. Dispose of products in a safe and approved manner. Refer to the material safety data sheets for any requirements for protective clothing and equipment for the cleaning up process.

Confined spaces

On dairy farms potential confined spaces include milk vats and silos, grain silos, spray tanks, water tanks, effluent tanks and wells.

It is best not to have to enter these areas at all; however, if it is necessary for anyone (including contractors) to enter any of these areas then Confined Space Regulations apply and must be followed, including a documented risk assessment, strict entry procedures and the development of emergency procedures for confined space rescue.

Have someone nearby

Always have someone outside when working in a confined space.

Information on confined spaces on dairy farms can be found in here and from each state Workcover Confined Space Code of Practice.
Reporting incidents

All Workcover authorities have requirements for workplace fatalities, serious injuries, acute ill heath and significant incidents and occurrences to be reported immediately. Failure to follow these reporting procedures can result in prosecution. Specific requirements for incident site management must also be followed.

Go to Record and Report for more information and see each state and territory Workcover Authority for incident reporting requirements.

Employee entitlements during natural disasters and emergencies

Natural disasters often result in employees requiring time off to care for the family and property or to assist with disaster-relief activities. Employers need to balance their staffing needs with the well-being of their staff when considering access to leave entitlements – read the Employee entitlements – natural disasters / emergencies fact sheet.