What are the obligations of farm owners and managers towards recreational visitors to their farms?

Changes made during the consultation process for the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 have ensured the legislation continues to enable farmers to readily grant access to recreational visitors as they have done for generations. The obligation remains for farmers to warn visitors of risks in the workplace that they wouldn’t normally expect on a farm.

The obligations of farm owners or managers towards recreational visitors do not differ substantially from those under the former Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. When recreational visitors enter a workplace or a place near a workplace with the farm owner’s or manager’s consent, the owners or managers and their workers have a duty to ensure the safety of the visitors from work-related hazards that place them at risk of harm.

As the people in charge of the workplace, the farm owner or manager and their workers have an obligation to ensure visitors are warned of any specific hazards on the farm that they would not normally expect to encounter, such as tree-felling, blasting, earthmoving machinery or pest control activities. This obligation relates only to parts of the farm that visitors will be accessing – there is no need to warn visitors about hazards that are not on or near a route they will be using.

Natural features like bluffs, landslides, rivers and wasp nests are excluded, along with hazards you would expect to find as part of a farm operation, such as barbed wire and electric fences.

If there are explicit farm rules, for example around speed or wearing of protective gear, farm owners or managers and their workers are entitled to request that visitors obey these.

If a visitor trips over a tree-root or stone, a farm owner or manager won’t be held responsible for the other person’s carelessness. If the owner or occupier could not reasonably have been expected to know of a hazard, they cannot be held responsible for any harm that occurs to a recreational visitor.

Farm owners or managers have a general duty to ensure risks are identified, managed and communicated to visitors, either by themselves or by workers or contractors working on the farm. They will not be held liable for injury to unauthorised visitors where there is no opportunity to communicate.

What if there is a group of visitors to the farm? Is the farm owner or manager obliged to ensure everyone in the group is informed of hazards?

No. If a group visits, it is sufficient to give the warning to a representative of that group, on the understanding that they will inform the others.

Is there an obligation for farm owners and managers to inform visitors in writing of any specific hazards on the property?

No. The information can be passed on verbally, in an e-mail or on the phone. The important thing is for the farm owner or manager and their workers to provide up to date information.

Are landholders liable if a member of the public is injured on public land intersecting or adjoining their land (e.g. a marginal strip, esplanade reserve or strip, or unformed legal road), or injured on a gazetted Walkway crossing their land?

Usually no. Generally, persons injured as the result of an accident are covered by the Accident Compensation Act 2001. Only in exceptional circumstances would there be civil liability to compensate for injury.

If an incident or injury occurred as a result of work being conducted on or near the public land, then there would be liability, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. For example, if the injury takes place on an unformed legal road and the road is being used as, or is close to, a workplace or workplace activity (such as tree felling) the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 applies.


Page last updated: Jan 28, 2019, 12:11 PM