The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) latest prosecutions stand as a stark reminder of the attitudes and behaviours that beset the agricultural industry’s safety record.
We are still seeing fatal injuries years after the legislation that could have prevented them was introduced – which begs the question: why do farmers continue to take risks that could cost them their lives?
See also: Tractor cab filters: are you protected?
There is no doubt about the fact that the agricultural industry needs to improve its health and safety record. Although it covers only 1% of the workforce of Great Britain, the agricultural sector accounts for 20% of worker deaths.
Real people behind statistics
Latest figures show that 33 people were killed in agriculture across Britain in 2017-18, with the causes of death reflecting the same patterns of previous years.
This reminds us that complacency is not an option if we want to effect real and lasting change. It is important to remember the real people behind the statistics, whose lives are being affected or even ended.
In response to this, and working with the Farm Safety Partnerships, I am leading the HSE’s latest campaign to remind those who work in the industry to be part of the change that is so badly needed.
Everyone has a role to play in achieving this, and only by working together can we help make real change, to save lives and prevent ill health and injury across the sector.
Those working in the industry need to understand the risks they face and the appropriate ways they can be managed. Managing risk should be part of each and every task and at the front of every farmer’s and farmworker’s mind each and every day.
Machinery and transport risks
Our current focus is on managing the risks of machinery and transport on farms and reminding operators of the need to follow the very simple “safe stop” procedure when getting out or off a vehicle.
Drivers need to use the handbrake, put the gears in neutral, switch off the engine and remove the key. They should also never mount a moving vehicle. We need to make “safe stop” as natural to farmers as using a seatbelt in a car
HSE’s 2017-18 statistics show that six deaths in agriculture were caused by moving vehicles, so actions as simple as safe stop will play a vital role in reducing deaths and injuries on farms.
Another piece of simple advice that can save lives and prevent injury while working in the fields is making sure a helmet is always worn when riding an ATV.
Aim of inspections
HSE’s current programme of inspections to review health and safety standards on farms is taking place across the country and we’ll be sharing the good/bad practice our inspectors have been finding on our Twitter channel @H_S_E using the hashtag #WorkRight.
The aim of these inspections is to make sure that those responsible for protecting themselves and their workers are doing the right things to comply with the law and prevent death, injury and ill-health.
If risks are not being controlled, we will not hesitate to use enforcement action to bring about improvements.
While we are seeing encouraging signs of a change in attitude across the farming industry, these inspections act as a reminder to farmers of the importance of managing risks so that everyone can go home from their work healthy.
Rick Brunt is head of agriculture at the Health and Safety Executive
For more information, and to discover “What a good farm looks like”, see the downloadable guidance on the HSE’s website