Farmers need to address the industry’s health and safety issues

8 August, 2015
Tim Bailey

In the UK, agriculture is the most dangerous sector to work in, with fatalities up to 16 times more likely to happen than in the general workforce. Farming is often compared to construction work in terms of health and safety records, but on average agriculture workers are three times more likely to die in their workplace that construction workers.

Within Scotland, around three people a year die in the agriculture environment, as a result of on-farm incidents. And 70% of the deaths can be attributed to one of four factors:

  • Falls
  • Animals
  • Transport
  • Equipment

With this in mind, the NFUS, Health & Safety Executive and the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland are urging farmers and farm workers to stay safe andDon't Leave it to FATE, and have produced a leaflet reminding them of the most common risks.

There are a number of ways that agriculture such a dangerous profession.

The very nature of the job means that workers are in an intrinsically dangerous situation - for examples with cows that are calving, heavy machinery etc. But one crucial difference between farm and equivalent professionals is that many farm workers work alone and can be geographically isolated. Farm workers often work long hours, and indeed this is considered to be 'part of the job'. Increasing industrialisation of farms also means that lone farmers can now see themselves as 'jack of all trades' - being up on the roof clearing a gutter one minute, working on a broken down tractor the next, with no-one to check if they have returned safely from the fields etc. This way of working brings with it health and safety implications.

But working on health and safety management can minimise such risks, and looking at the learnings that have come from the construction industry - which has seen its health and safety record improve dramatically over the last ten years - can help the farming sector do the same. Campaigns such as Don't Leave it to FATE, help publicise the risks and help minimise them. There is also practical material available  - the Farm Safety Partnership, colleges, NFU mutual and other insurance providers, all offer solutions around on-farm risk assessment.

There is a willingness to change and improve the health and safety record within the farm environment, and support is available for farmers who wish to do this, both formally and informally. One recent story we heard was from two farmers who work on neighbouring farms - they now check in with each other at a set time every morning by a text or a quick call, just to ensure both are safe.

Awareness raising of these safety issues is just the first phase of the process. Acoura consulting are looking at how to move the situation forward, and whether our expertise in and learnings from H&S audits within the hospitality sector can be transferred and made applicable to the agriculture sector - with a view to launching a relevant service in 2016.

Download the Don't Leave it to FATE leaflet by CLICKING HERE.

For more information on the services Acoura can offer, contact us on 0330 024 0255,

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