Farming for Safety

Farming for Safety

13th March 2018

Last month one of our articles dealt specifically with health and safety on the UK’s farms and we reported on a new initiative by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to send inspectors out to farms across the UK over the next month to make sure adequate precautions are being taken to reduce the risk of falls from height.  With falls being the second most common cause of death on British farms, raising awareness on this issue is a vital part of striving to decrease these incidents and make British farms safer places to work.  As March is National Ladder Safety Month, we feel that we should do our part in reiterating the dangers and today we’re going to take a look at some of the latest developments.

In Suffolk an event was held by the HSE which was attended by nearly 300 farmers.  The training roadshow involved farmer-instructors from the land-based training body Lantra using a series of scenarios which showed six of the most common ways that farmers could come to harm and how to avoid this. 

One instructor concentrated on demonstrating to the farmers how they could work at height more safely and one of the issues that was highlighted was training.  Operator training was stressed because an untrained operator is a liability – having knowledge of the hazards faced and how they can be avoided is a vital issue.  With falls from height such a common incident on farms, training in the safe use of ladders is an essential component when it comes to making farms safer. 

Other issues addressed included the safe use of machinery, and farmers were encouraged to take a critical look at their tractors and other machinery and make any necessary corrections before using them.  One of the main focuses of the roadshow was using a telescopic handler, highlighting the poor visibility behind machines and the common, but hazardous, practice of using them to life someone on a pallet or in a potato box!

Farming is the most dangerous occupation in the UK, even though people who work on farms make up less than 2% of the total workforce, they account for nearly 20% of work-related fatal injuries!  Using farmer-instructors is an effective method of getting the message across because guidance from fellow farmers who are aware of specific farm-related issues is more likely to be taken on board by farmers.

It seems as if this initiative may need to be extended and more of these roadshows and other workshops planned because inspectors visiting farms during the potato harvest discovered that, while there have been some positive results, there are still areas that need improvement.  When visiting farms, the key risks HSE inspectors were on the lookout for include:

  • Machinery
  • Falls
  • Safe stop
  • Transport

Inspectors were please to find that many of the farms they visited had carried out maintenance on their machinery before the season started, making sure their equipment was in good condition and not likely to break down during the harvest.  This doesn’t just make sense from a compliance point to view, it makes economic sense too.