VICTORIAN Farmers Federation president David Jochinke has urged Wimmera farmers to make sure their machinery and equipment is safe ahead of harvest.
It comes as his organisation pushes for certain exemptions for farmers in legislation to make workplace manslaughter a criminal offence.
Changes introduced to State Parliament last week will, if adopted, see employers who negligently cause a workplace death face fines of up to $16.5 million and individuals up to 20 years in jail.
Mr Jochinke, of Murra Warra, said the farmers federation was "all for safety", but the laws needed an exemption for farm business owners for when an immediate family member died in the workplace.
"We are all for safety, but there also needs to be recognition for the fact agriculture is a family business and that we could be (seeing) people being prosecuted for the loss of their spouse in already tragic circumstances," he said.
"Farms are considered workplaces, so if you have friends over for a barbecue and children go to play in your yard, technically that could be considered a minor in the workplace.
"We keep getting told it will be up to the discretion of the attorney-general to apply the rules, but we would be more comfortable if (this exemption) were written into the legislation. Then we would have complete knowledge of where people sit."
Mr Jochinke said quad bikes, working with livestock in shearing sheds and loading ramps, and farm equipment such as tractors and headers were the three main areas where the farmers federation saw deaths and injuries occur on farms.
He said the legislation's introduction highlighted the need for farmers to talk about safety.
"They need to ensure no-one takes unnecessary risks while working during harvest. It can involve long days handling lots of machinery, so being aware of fatigue is important," he said.
"Good practice is that every morning, farmers should have a chat about where people are at, what they're doing for the day and checking up to make sure they are safe.
"On the back of that, because we are looking at an OK season in the Wimmera, farmers should be dedicating resources to fixing equipment to ensure they are operating in a safe environment."
The Mail-Times contacted Workplace Safety Minister Jill Hennessey for comment.
In response, a government spokesman said the Workplace Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce included representation from the VFF.
"Engagement with industry groups on the implementation of this new offence will continue once the legislation passes Parliament," he said.
The spokesman said the proposed laws included industries which could present higher safety risks, including agriculture, construction and mining.
He said the exclusion of a specific class of organisation would undermine the purpose of the offences and could produce unintended consequences.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.