David Canty, farm consultant and health and safety specialist with Strutt & Parker, said farms and estates were now regarded as a more dangerous place to work than construction sites, which makes it vital that farm businesses make health and safety a priority aspect of their business operation.
“The number of fatal accidents in the agricultural industry during 2016/17 was 27, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive,” he said. “That equates to 7.73 deaths per 100,000 workers in agriculture, compared to 1.94 in construction.
“Everyone in agriculture needs to be asking why the level of fatalities is so high in our industry and thinking about what they can do in their own business to reduce this figure.
“The quieter winter months are a good time to review the policies and procedures that you have in place. It is also an opportunity to service and repair equipment that has worked hard and to get jobs done that have been put on the ‘to-do list’ during the busier times of the year.
“Promoting a good health and safety culture is paramount, but it does take effort on everyone’s part.
“Encouragingly, the younger generation seems to be very savvy about it and are often vocal about expecting measures to be in place, along with the provision of ongoing training. This results partly from colleges pushing the health and safety message more than they did in the past.”
Mr Canty has some simple tips for anyone living and working on a farm, to minimise the risks of a life-changing accident.
- Have appropriate signage in place and observe these instructions.
- Beware of people, machines, livestock and buildings when maneuvering vehicles and machines around yards.
- Turn radios off (in cabs) when moving around yards.
- Do not leave vehicles or implements in places where they could cause an obstruction.
- Always turn machines off when leaving them, and remove keys from the ignition.
- Always lay heavy objects flat so that they cannot fall over, or place them on pallets so that they can be moved easily.
- When working at height ensure you use a safe means of access, e.g. a mobile elevated work platform (MEWP) or crawling boards.
- Make sure guards and safety rails are in place and in good working order.
- Always leave areas where you have been working in a clean and safe state.
“If people pledged to adhere to all these measures as their New Year resolution then we could see a reduction in the number of fatalities in the industry.
“Appropriate signage throughout the workplace is essential and should be visible as soon as someone enters the farm or estate,” added Mr Canty.
“Examples include speed restrictions, warnings about the possibility of vehicle movements or signs alerting people to the dangers of overhead cables. In the workshop, they could include mandatory blue signage instructing operators to use eye protection when using a grinder.”