Farm safety is under the spotlight as fatalities increase in the last year. Agriculture has 18 times more fatal accidents per 100,000 workers than all the other major industries with significant risks associated with working on farms and country estates. In 2018/19 there were 39 fatalities in the industry, 6 more than the previous year, with transport being the biggest killer. Falls from height and incidents involving animals were the next highest bracket with more than half of the fatalities aged 60 or over including 7 members of the public.
Implementing a health and safety policy with appropriate risk assessments is essential for farm safety on any safe working farm. Ensuring farm workers are engaged in this process is also vital to identify and address potential hazards.
The HSE guidance document, Farmwise (HSG270), provides an essential reading material for farmers to get to grips with their responsibilities for farm safety and health and safety management. With a high proportion of duties undertaken alone and often in remote locations, a clear procedure needs to be implemented so that assistance is available in an emergency. Mobile telephone coverage across a farm or estate is clearly important and collaborating with neighbouring farms in outlying areas.
The seasonal nature of agriculture generates many self-employed, temporary workers and farmers who engage them must ensure they are competent to carry out the tasks required and ensure responsibility for health and safety management, supervision and provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) is clearly set out. In all cases, new workers must be given information regarding the hazards present in their workplace, the precautions to take and action required in the event of an emergency. Engaging foreign workers may also require the information to be made available to them in a language they understand.
When restoring or maintaining farm buildings all work should be carefully planned particularly when working at height repairing roofs, cleaning guttering and similar tasks. Research should be undertaken to identify fragile roofs by affixing prominent signs to warn workers and others. Ladders should only be used for short simple tasks and the foot of the ladder must always be secured. Scaffolding or work platforms will be necessary for work which is of longer duration. Farm equipment and machinery should be regularly inspected and faults reported. Establishing a maintenance schedule will help to identify faults as well as increasing the life expectancy of the equipment. Always use appropriate equipment for the task and avoid using make-shift alternatives such as buckets to lift people off the ground. Machine guards should be regularly inspected and equipment should be taken out of use where these are incomplete or damaged.
Moving vehicles present a particular hazard and are a major cause of fatalities in the agriculture sector. Arrangements should be made to separate vehicles and pedestrians wherever possible. Pedestrians and vehicles should access farm land and buildings by separate doors to reduce the risk of collision. Vehicle routes around the farm should be clearly set out, preferably in a one-way system to minimize the requirement for reversing. Delivery drivers should be made aware of the access routes and driving rules when attending the farm.
Implementing these simple steps will help to improve farm safety. Addressing health and safety does not need to be time consuming or expensive and in most cases will save employers money in the long term. Simply considering the hazards present on the farm and putting in place a few basic precautions will reduce accidents and fewer workers will be injured.
Jacksons Law Firm is one of the longest established law firms in the North East of England offering business and personal legal solutions. Jacksons Health & Safety Limited provides health and safety consultancy services to clients across the North East region. Simon Catterall is a partner at Jacksons Law Firm and former CPS prosecutor who regularly advises clients in the agricultural sector in relation to regulatory cases. Mark Stouph is principal consultant at Jacksons Health & Safety Limited and has worked both as a regulator and as a risk director in industry.
If you require help implementing health and safety measures or dealing with enforcement action contact the authors below for more information.
Simon Catterall, Jacksons Law Firm.
Mark Stouph, Jacksons Health & Safety Ltd