Host Handbook

Everything you need to host an Open Farms event

Health, Safety & Biosecurity


Health & safety is just taking the time to apply common sense.


It isn’t something that should overshadow your day or stop you from telling your story. On the contrary, taking the time to complete common-sense, health & safety precautions will give you the confidence to present your farming story with peace of mind. In this section, we’ll cover the steps necessary to protect yourself and visitors, including:


  • Your responsibility – doing what’s “reasonably practicable”
  • Visitor responsibility
  • Your Open Farms risk assessment (you’ll need to complete this one!)
  • Minimising risk – health & safety
  • Minimising risk – biosecurity
  • Your health, safety & biosecurity checklist


Your Responsibility – Doing What’s “Reasonably Practicable”

As a farm owner/manager and event organiser, the law compels you to put in place reasonably practicable steps to keep yourselves, staff, volunteers and visitors safe. The important part here is understanding the term Reasonably Practicable – it’s the standard that your Health & Safety precautions need to meet.



“It’s about taking responsibility for what you can control.”


Overall, it means that you MUST do what is reasonably able to be done – taking into account the likelihood and severity of harm, what visitors should reasonably know, and the availability, suitability, and cost of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk. If cost is to be considered, the test should be whether the cost is ‘grossly disproportionate’ to the risk.


For more information see


Visitor Responsibility

Your visitors have a responsibility to take reasonable care that their actions (or lack of action) do not put themselves or others at risk. They must also comply with any reasonable instruction given by you or your staff/volunteers. All Open Farms visitors have agreed to this responsibility as part of their registration.


Your Open Farms Risk Assessment

As an Open Farms host, you have agreed to complete a risk assessment for your open farm day and meet your ‘reasonably practicable’ Health& Safety requirements.

To help, we’ve pulled together a step-by-step guide below and an example risk assessment (you’ll find that at the end of the section). There are 3 main steps:


  1. Identify the hazards & risks of running an event on the farm. These will be different from your usual working day because visitors, particularly children, don’t know the farm like you do. This part is about taking the time to see your farm through ‘townie’ eyes.
  2. Assess how likely each risk is to occur and how severe the harm if it did. Focus your efforts on those risks that are likely to happen and/or could result in serious injury. The greater the potential for harm, the more action is required.
  3. Implement reasonably practicable control measures to manage risk. These are well-known and effective industry-standard measures that will help keep you and your visitors safe.


To complete your risk assessment, follow the SLAM process.



Minimising Risk – General Tips and Advice

Here are some simple steps to minimise risk that will apply to almost every farm participating in Open Farms. You can use many of these steps as control measures in your risk assessment.


Plan the day/route. Decide which parts of the farm visitors will be have access too.  Avoid cluttered areas, very uneven ground, water bodies and other hazards. Block these areas off with signage and closed gates if required.

Significantly hazardous areas. Identify these from the start and stop visitors entering them. Spray stores, veterinary medicine stores, workshops, water bodies and pits should be locked up/cordoned off and visitors kept well away.

Signage and supervision. Where areas contain a potential hazard, mark it with signage and/or keep visitors to your planned route. Supervision is recommended for particularly high risk areas.

Picnic areas. Take these precautions:

  • Keep farm animals off the area for at least three weeks prior to use.
  • Remove any visible droppings.
  • Mow the grass and remove the clippings before the area is used.
  • Recommend visitors wash hands before eating.
  • Avoid eating food in a shed that has been used for animal housing, unless it has been thoroughly washed out and disinfected.

Crushing hazards. Heavy items stored in the yard could fall over and crush a child, especially if they could be climbed on e.g. wheels and gates.  Either remove the hazard or make safe by lying flat or tying securely.

Machinery and demonstrations. Clearly mark out demonstration areas to keep visitors well away from moving machinery.  Visitors can sit in a tractor, but static machinery displays should be supervised (and triple check that the keys aren’t in the vehicle!).  Watch for spikes and sharp edges on cultivation equipment – consider if they can be removed, made safe or cordoned off.

First Aid. At a minimum, you must have a first aid kit for emergencies. Ideally, you will have a trained first aider present at your event.  For larger events consider contacting your local medical service for support.

Regular rounds. Put aside time to do a regular walk-around, checking that your plans and measures are in place and working as they should.

Emergency plan. Ensure you know:

  • Where the closest mobile or landline phone coverage is available.
  • Where the closest hospital or emergency service provider is located.
  • Where an emergency safety vehicle is located.

Safety Briefing.  Brief your staff and volunteers before the event starts – ensure they know the risks and control measures, and what to do in case of an emergency.

Tractor and trailer rides. A trailer-ride must operate:

  • With secure rails
  • With fixed seating (bales will do if strapped securely to the trailer bed)
  • In good working order and be securely coupled together.
  • A driver that is mature, competent and has undergone adequate training.
  • Never allow visitors to travel in the cab, stand on the towbar or sit on the railings.
  • Be aware of the appropriate load weights for the trailer and towing vehicle.
  • Do not use your tractor-trailer on a public road.
  • Stay to flat ground.
  • Kept to a low, safe speed limit – no more than 15km per hour.
  • Consider how passengers (particularly children) will safely enter and exit the trailer.

Cleanliness. You should make every effort to ensure that your farm is as clean and tidy as possible. Dairy platforms must be washed down and free of faecal matter, rubbish and equipment on the visitor route must be put away. Deploy rubbish bins around the main visitor areas too.

Bathroom facilities. This may prove a challenge for some Open Farm hosts. General recommendations are one toilet facility per 100 guests, but male guests can be directed to a patch of bush instead. In addition, guidance will be shared with all Open Farms visitors (in a ‘know-before-you-go’ email) recommending they use facilities before arriving at your event. For larger events, consider renting a porta-loo.

Food & Refreshments. Food is a great way to bring people together! Cakes, tea & coffee and even a BBQ always go down well. The good news is that the majority of Open Farms hosts who intend to cook and sell/donate food at their event do not need to officially register a food control plan, so long as vendors meet one of these criteria:

  • Food is donated to visitors
  • Food is sold to fundraise for charity (NB vendors may do this up to 20 times a year)
  • Food is sold as part of an annual event (NB unregistered vendors may only sell food once a year).
  • Food sold is pre-packaged.

However, food safety guidelines should always be adhered too. For more information on food & refreshments guidelines, see MPI’s Food Act Factsheet.


Minimising Risk – Biosecurity & Human Health

Your Open Farms event is a great opportunity for people, particularly young children to see and touch a range of new animals. Animal contact is often a highlight for young visitors.

However, animal contact activities come with a unique set of challenges. All animals (even healthy animals) carry a range of micro-organisms, some of which can be transmitted to humans (through contact, droppings, urine, secretions or contaminated food) and may cause illness.

Types of diseases transmitted from animals to humans may include stomach illness, skin infections, flu-like illnesses and infections to unborn babies. Infection hazards are real and can be very serious, but they can be controlled by simple measures such as effective hand washing.


“Handwashing and supervision is essential”


Hand Washing Facilities. If you are hosting an animal contact activity, you must provide hand washing facilities. This includes:

  • Clean running water – cold water is acceptable, but not bowls/buckets of still water
  • Liquid soap – not hard soap or anti-bacterial gels and wet wipes
  • Paper towels – NOT towelling hand towels
  • Put up display signs at appropriate points to remind people to wash/dry their hands
  • Have low sinks accessible for children (or a step)
  • Inform visitors on arrival and at regular intervals that hand-washing is a requirement
  • Designate eating/picnic areas away from any animal contact activity

Supervision. Enclosures with animals should be supervised by an experienced helper/staff.  Advise visitors of the potential risk of disease transmission. Outline rules regarding animal contact:

  • Do not allow visitors to kiss animals, nor for animals to lick visitors
  • No eating or drinking in animal contact areas
  • Keep fingers away from mouth and face after petting animals
  • Tell children that animals deserve respect and care – no sudden movements or shouting
  • Wash hands with soap and running water straight after touching animals
  • Throw away food and drink that drops on the floor; dropped dummies and toys need to be sterilised/washed
  • No human food is to be fed to animals
  • Pregnant women should avoid all contact with farm animals
  • Inform visitors to seek medical treatment should they experience any signs of illness (e.g. sickness or diarrhoea) after their visit.

Enclosures. Set up temporary enclosures for livestock using plenty of fresh, clean bedding.  Do not overcrowd animals.

General layout. Livestock and animal contact areas must not be adjacent to designated eating areas.  Hand washing facilities need to be as close to as possible to livestock enclosures.  If possible, use barriers to mark a route past livestock pens with a clear entrance and exit, with hand washing facilities positioned at the exit.

Signage. Good clear, visible signage is highly recommended to remind visitors to wash their hands.

Livestock. Select animals with calm, docile temperaments. Ensure that your selected animals are clean and healthy. Avoid using animals that have just been born or just given birth. Check animals regularly to make sure they are kept clean and comfortable.

Pregnant women. Pregnant women should not have any contact with animals.

Inform visitors. Include biosecurity measures in your greeting to visitors – most will be new to the farm and may not understand the importance of these measures. Make it part of the farm day experience!


Minimising Risk – On-farm Biosecurity Measures


Point of entry/exit

  • Manage visitor flows through one entry/exit point only.
  • Place disinfectant stations at your entry/exit point with supervision and/or written instructions for visitors.
  • Disinfectant mats are preferable to brushes/hoses/buckets of water & disinfectant spray.
  • NB Some visitors may visit more than one farm on-the-day.
  • In accordance with their terms and conditions of visitation, your visitors have agreed to follow your biosecurity instructions. We will also include instructions in visitor ‘know before you go’ emails that
    • Visitors must arrive with clean footwear, particularly those who have recently come into contact with other animals and/or travelled overseas.
    • No dogs are allowed, expect for those farms that have expressly allowed for dogs in their event description.

 Food scraps

  • No human food should be food to animals.
  • Dispose of any human food scraps – e.g. rubbish bins – by burning or deep burial. Do not feed to animals.

 Animal movement between farms

Mycoplasma Bovis

  • Farms currently under a Restricted Place Notice are not eligible to participate in Open Farms.