The fatal accident rate is higher in agriculture and farming than any other sector
Employees in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector are 20 times more likely to be killed at work than any other sector combined. Around 360,000 people work in agriculture, or 1% of the total UK workforce, yet it makes up 20% of all fatal work accidents.
In 2018-19, 32 farm workers and 7 members of the public (including 2 children) lost their lives on a British far. To understand how to reduce these statistics, we will look at the main influential risk factors and the six key categories, farmers should be focusing on to improve safety on their farmland.
Percentage of UK work deaths on farms
Deaths on farms (2018-19)
Agricultural incidents involving people aged 60+
What are the influential factors?
There is a stigma around taking risks among older farmers, with 47% of all agricultural worker fatalities occurring in the over 60’s age group. They often believe the way they’ve been farming their whole lives, is still the way they should farm today.
An HSE (Health and Safety Executive) Representative said:
“It is a challenge to get parts of this industry, which is characterised by a lack of large companies, to accept that they are not managing risk well.”
However, improvements in education and awareness on managing risks are reaching younger farmers, 8,500 having been trained by the Farm Safety Foundation, and as such, they are changing the way they farm to align with the safety measures they need to implement.
But education and awareness are not enough with the pressure of the supply chain on farmers. Farmers, even though their number one resource being people, still give livestock and crops get more attention than their own wellbeing.
At every stage of the ‘field-to-fork journey’, farmers are feeling the intense competitive pressure to reduce prices, which leads to safety corners being cut. They work faster to increase profit margins and decide against investing in safety measures. The whole of the supply chain, including the larger organisations, have a responsibility to farmers and must recognise they are contributing to an unsafe work environment.
Time moves very fast in the agricultural industry, it’s about who can get their products through the supply chain and out to customers the quickest. Allowing for more time is the easiest change farmers can make, by taking a few minutes to consider the risk and assess the situation in the six categories we’ll look at, can be the defining difference between life and death.
1. Moving Vehicles
Vehicles on the farm should be inspected daily by someone trained to ensure the vehicle is well maintained, and anyone driving the vehicles should be properly authorised and medically fit to do so. If the vehicle is being used for a long time, breaks should be taken to avoid fatigue.
All routes on the farm must be kept clear, well-lit and away from livestock and people. If the route is near where people are working, the workers should wear high visibility clothing. If they need to approach the vehicle should attract the driver’s attention first, and not move forward until the driver has fully stopped the vehicle.
All vehicles used on farmland should be fitted with sound alerts when in reverse.
2. Operating Machinery
Whether it’s a full-time employee or volunteer, everyone operating machinery must be fully trained, wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when necessary and never have any loose clothing, hair, jewellery or laces on.
All machinery on farms should be maintained and assessed on a regular basis, it is also recommended machines have safeguards to protect people from the most dangerous parts. For example, guards, interlocks, two hand controls and pressure sensitive mats.
Machinery should always be shut down properly after use, it is useful to keep the manual to hand.
3. Handling Livestock
Animals remember bad experiences, all farm workers should know how to deal with animal behaviour which includes; keeping calm, no raised voices and always approaching animals from the front.
All equipment for handing livestock should be well kept, preventing injury to animals and people. Steel toe capped boots are recommended to reduce danger of crushing and gloves to avoid spread of bacteria and risk of disease.
When working with animals, a clear path is a necessity should they become distressed it allow them to exit without causing harm to themselves or others.
4. Physically Falling
Falling from height or being hit by a falling object accounts for 30% of all agricultural fatalities. When working at height, there is a safety hierarchy to follow: Avoid, Plan, Prevent, Train.
Where possible avoid working at height and when it can’t be avoided risk assessments should be carried out and a plan created to perform the task properly. This may include looking at the weather conditions, job duration, lighting and ground conditions to name a few.
All staff working or intending to work at height should be provided with the training. PPE should be worn including kneepads and helmet and a soft-landing provided, airbags or bales on the floor is a good option.
It can also be useful to provide employees with a man down alarm should they slip or fall and have no way of getting help.
5. Children on Farms
Farms can be an educational and fantastic place for children to grow up, but proper precautions should be taken. Children shouldn’t be left unsupervised around livestock, equipment, have access to heights or dangerous areas on the farm such as water or slurry tanks.
Under the age of 13, children are prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine. Any children under the age of 16 in the work area, should be fully supervised by an adult and shouldn’t engage in any farm work.
Over 16, larger machines can be used but it is at the farmer’s discretion, based on the young person’s experience and competence whether they allow this. It’s not just about the age bracket as to whether they are ready to ride as a passenger, help with low-risk farm work or use larger powered machinery.
6. How to Improve Security Measures
Investing in security precautions and knowing their property is secure, gives farmers more time to dedicate to carrying out their agricultural tasks. It enables them to more effectively manage risks and make the right decisions regarding their and their employees’ safety.
a. Alarm Response and Keyholding + other security services
ARK offers a mobile patrols service which is a cost-effective and practical solution, covering the breadth of land and outbuildings to ensure everything is in order and giving farmers one less job to be concerned about. The officers are trained to take the notify the necessary people and act accordingly in the event of something suspicious or unsafe on the premises.
Introducing CCTV to the property and alarm monitoring can also give the peace of mind that the property is secure and help is not far away should they require assistance.
If the farmland has a lot of unused outbuildings, ARK’s vacant property inspections can help reduce safety risks by checking all access points, looking for damage caused by water, fire or electrical hazards and any evidence of squatters, vandalism or theft. If the property was then to be used to house farming equipment, there’s the reassurance that it has been thoroughly vetted.
b. Cannon and Fire Safety
The Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO) is applicable to all farm buildings where people work, including packing sheds, milking parlours, barns, holiday lets and farmhouses used for providing bed and breakfast.
Farmers have the responsibility of conducting and maintaining up to date risk assessments and installing necessary fire precautions for the identified risks.
Cannon can help farmers conform to the FSO, they are industry-recommended in supplying fire extinguishers and sprinklers for every sector’s needs. With the added addition of design, installation, maintenance, room integrity testing and refilling.
Further Reading: Farm Safety Foundation
To get more detailed advice, the Farm Safety Foundation has created a category of detailed advice on these topics and much more.
They run national campaigns including Farm Safety Week, Yellow Wellies -Who Would Fill Your Boots? and Mind Your Head to remove the stigma around risk-taking and educate farmers on smart strategies to live well and farm well.
The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) also has a dedicated agriculture section for more detail on their legislations.
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