RASCS News

Are your staff safe when they go to work on the Farm?

The safety, health and well being of your staff should be your number one priority in your business. A safe and well-trained workforce is the lifeblood of your operations, they enable you to succeed.

During the 2019/20 reporting period there were 111 workers fatally injured at work in the UK, a rate of 0.34 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This was the lowest annual number on record. The HSE statistics do note that COVID 19 restrictions will have had an impact on the number of fatalities, due to many people not being able to work during the reporting period.

Fatal injuries were predominantly to male workers. In 2019/20, 97% of all worker fatalities were to male workers.

Wales recorded the highest number of workplace fatalities – 16, followed by the North West with 14. The lowest numbers were recorded in the North East (3) and Yorkshire and the Humber (5).

The agricultural sector is still considered to be the most dangerous place to work in the UK. In the 2019/20 reporting period the HSE statistics show that there were 21 fatalities in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors. This included 7 employees killed at work, 13 self-employed deaths and the death of a member of the public (a child).

According to the HSE data, workers in agriculture, forestry and fishing are more than 20 times more likely to be killed at work than the average for all other sectors combined. Whilst workers in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors account for approximately 1% of the UK workforce, the sector is responsible for an alarming 20% of workplace fatalities.

7 people were killed when struck by moving vehicles including incidents involving a tractor, combine harvester, telescopic handler, an ATV, and a boat.

4 people were killed by falls from height and a further 4 were killed when struck by an object including hay bales, trees and falling branches.

2 people were killed by animals (cattle), 2 killed by coming into contact with machinery and a further 2 killed by something collapsing (a mower unit and a steel structure).

In addition to the devastating personal impact following the death of a work colleague there are also strict penalties associated with accidents generally. In 2019/20 the Health and safety Executive issued 256 improvement notices against farm businesses in the UK. 13 farms were prosecuted for health and safety breaches with 13 guilty verdicts recorded. The total fines issued by the courts for these offences was £467,000 with an average fine of £36,000 per case. It is worth remembering that these are uninsured costs that directly affect the profitability of the farm businesses concerned.

According to the HSE figures, it is suggested that 7 farmworkers die of farmers lung each year and occupational asthma is above average industry levels. Of the 13,000 cases of ill health reported over half were due to bad backs and strains/sprains normally associated with poor manual handling.

So, what should you be doing to reduce the number of accidents and ill health in your agricultural business? There are a number of simple, yet cost effective, measures that you can implement to reduce the chances of your staff being killed, injured, or made ill by their work activities? If you take responsibility, get the basics right, train your staff and ensure that you regularly monitor what people are doing at work you will have a safe and happy workplace.

Do you need a health and safety policy and written risk assessments? If you employ more than 5 people, then the answer is yes you do. Keep it simple and ensure that you inform staff of the significant findings of the risk assessment.

Health and safety training? Ensure that all staff get a good health and safety induction, where you can clearly explain what they should and should not do whilst at work. Ensure they know what to do if things go wrong and are fully aware of the emergency procedures such as fire evacuation procedures and what to do if first aid is required.

Specific training? You should do a simple training needs analysis exercise. Do staff need additional training to ensure that they are safe at work and that you are within the law e.g. specific training to operate forklift trucks or machinery, ATV training and specialist training to use poisons and pesticides. Remember that training in manual handling, work at heights, working with animals, working near overhead power lines etc will also need to be considered. Keep training records and ensure that refresher training is completed as required.

Toolbox talks?  It is good practice to deliver a range of toolbox talks throughout the year to keep safety high on the agenda and to ensure that staff remain safe. Topics could include, winter/summer safety, driving at work, pedestrian safety, safety of members of the public, working with animals etc.

Machinery safety? Ensure that all work equipment and machinery is safe to use and is examined regularly by a competent engineer where required (PUWER/LOLER). All safety mechanisms must be in good working order and staff must be suitably trained.

Main hazards to consider:

  • Driving and vehicle safety.
  • Working close to animals.
  • Chemicals and poisons.
  • Work at height or near pits.
  • Slurry pits.
  • Work near overhead power lines.
  • Children and visitors to the farm.
  • Manual handling injuries.
  • Working in adverse weather conditions (hot & cold).
  • Lone working.
  • Temporary workers and elderly workers.
  • COVID 19.

 Conclusion:

Regardless of the size of your business you should stop to assess the risks to your staff and your business operations. A little time planning for safety really can save a lot of time and heartache should things go wrong. HSE investigations are a traumatic and costly experience which could realistically put an end to the operational viability of your business.

If you would like to discuss any health and safety matters, please contact Richard Wade at Risk and Safety Compliance Services on 0191 908 0257 for a no-obligation discussion or visit the website: www.rascs.co.uk

We are experienced farm and estate health and safety advisers and offer you simple, yet effective, solutions to your safety issues. We can also train your staff either online or face to face in a COVID secure setting.