Farm safety

12.09.13 Farm safety

A shift in mindset, a sensible attitude and a respect for danger were the triumvirate of recommended practices for farm safety adoption.

Farming is a lone working industry, with accidents too frequent and shortcuts too easy due to trying to meet constant supply chain pressures. Safety is not about red tape or regulations; safety is about common sense, thinking before doing, and good education both for the young and the old.

Tradition should not equate to complacency. Could assurance schemes mean mandatory certification? Technology and mobile phones have provided the tools for safety assistance and danger prevention, but the key lies in the attitude of the individuals, which for some in farming is a trade-off against getting the job done quicker.

The discussion held on Thursday 12th September 2013 was a discussion about farm safety. It generated a total of 462 tweets on the topic from 100 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.

What is the most dangerous activity that occurs on farms and what could be done to make it safer?

  • Statistics on health & safety in UK agriculture can be found on the HSE website
  • Where do you start? Working at heights, and on your own are high up on the dangerous list
  • Quadbikes seem to cause folk to come a cropper a lot. Removing the high gears would fix things!
  • So much lone working with livestock and machinery.
  • Cleaning out slurry from slatted systems without good ventilation?
  • Working on your own with livestock or machinery, both can be temperamental
  • Long hours & Lone working with powerful equipment and livestock
  • Livestock handling, especially dairy bulls, as they are so unpredictable. Second comes quads or mules
  • Working at height, machinery, ramblers v livestock.
  • We find most accidents occur when the job isn’t part of the daily routine, usually doing maintenance work
  • Lone working! +tiredness. Tough one, with no extra £ to pay wages. Let someone know where u r going & your ETA/return.
  • Set the scene. 1.5% of workers are employed in ag yet it is responsible 15% and 20% of fatalities to workers each year.
  • Broken / damaged PTO guards are dangerous, also moving large vehicle around people

In terms of accidents on farm & in the countryside, do farmers tend to think “it won’t happen to me” Why?

  • Having suffered one server accident myself I still felt it couldn’t happen to me and it did again
  • Think they know equipment, Its kept in what they class as ‘good condition’ but accidents happen to anyone
  • Definitely but don’t know why, horrible farm accidents seem to happen with too much frequency
  • Yes, and its normally because they have done it before to no ill effect. Prime example is unblocking bakers
  • Something about farming that makes me abandon sense, use dodgy ladders, stick my fingers in moving kit. Why?
  • I think as we get older we get complacent about safety on some jobs
  • It’s true, think it comes down to money and the means/thought of paying someone to do an on farm job
  • Work place is home. So becomes too comfortable/familiar. Some equipment on fm needs ‘local knowledge’ to operate it safely
  • Farming: Working alone + long days + unpredictable stock, etc. = Injury + Fatality Value farmers
  • I think there will come a time when suppliers demand better health and safety on the farms that supply them.

Have you had an accident on your farm – what happened and what did you change?

  • I was crushed between a wall and telescopic handler – now they turn the engine of when standing in front of it!
  • I lost sight in one eye because we didn’t have a pair of safety goggles (which are only £5).
  • I haven’t. But when I was young a heifer kicked the gate and smashed dads head. Makes me careful loading anything
  • I nearly got killed by a heifer with calf about 7 years ago if I did have my old hilux to roll under, I carried a light pipe
  • I’ve been lucky, or careful, worst I’ve done is dropped a fork truck fork on my toe. Bad design of QD forks, so we sold them
  • My husband had an accident separating a bull from a cow broke his arm this is now a job done by 2 people
  • Rolled quad feeding ewes on fell-snow! Husband was laid up with broken knee. Action taken- husband has given up rugby!
  • Sliced top of foot open on WWII sand tracks on dung heap. I left a trail of dung and blood into Dr’s surgery
  • I had a shearing machine fall down and hit me on the shoulder. I was glad it wasn’t my head…a scary thought!
  • As vets-awkward to refuse to do work if dangerous. If u do -farmers invariably say “thank u” for pointing it out!
  • Waved hand through air vent on cattle trailer to send Bull out he kicked out and smashed finger broke it in 5 places
  • My brother hacked his legs with hand hoe while digging. Some rudimentary tools r unsafe
  • The most dangerous piece of equipment on a farm is surprisingly a ladder!

What can you teach young people about farm safety that you weren’t taught? (OR what are you teaching people older than you?)

  • When we introduced H&S regs to our local Ag show it was the farming fraternity that voted against it, really odd mindset
  • It’s simple to me – take the time to think about the task. Taking keys out of tractor will save lives. Hiring tractor service will save you time.
  • We’ve heard of kids turning down rides on tractors because they were taught extra riders without a seat belt isn’t safe
  • I find it really strange that farmers find it acceptable to allow kids on farms to drive tractors and quad bikes etc
  • It’s not what I haven’t been taught. But I always ask people I’m working with to respect the animals and kit.
  • Don’t brag about your “close calls”. Instead use them as a learning opportunity.
  • Difficult, according to HSE resistance to officialdom, a widespread belief that [all] regulation and red tape is a burden
  • People in rural areas do not hear much about farm safety.This shd be intensified.Do support farm safety projects
  • Young farmers are taking the lead as far as I can see. We need leadership from older farmers

Ag has the highest number of fatalities out of all sectors. Is health and safety failing in farming?

  • Farming is rooted in tradition. Tradition can be hard to change. Takes time and educating the next generation.
  • Changing attitudes of the future farmers will change our farming future
  • More often than not, good guidance is out there- it’s disseminating the information that’s the challenge
  • It’s the way H&S is perceived on farm. Culture change needed. Maybe thru education-college/uni? Av. age farmer is 65
  • Well-made H&S risks and methods and implemented daily will become more cost effective as well as safer
  • People who have had accidents need to speak up of their experiences to educate, the young farmer population
  • Some young farmers put accident photos on FB as some sort of badge of honour. They’d be out on their ear if I employed them

The building industry managed to improve safety, how did they do it and what can we learn? What do other industries do?

  • They had to – contracts and insurers and govt made them
  • Some of it driven by major contractors and clients down the supply chain
  • Building industry made it mandatory to have certification on site we would struggle with this approach
  • It could be driven by assurance schemes
  • Working in the wind industry was an eye opener on the safety front. Meticulous planning before any jobs carried out
  • H&S in building improved when builders started suing employers, may be farmers should sue themselves?
  • Well, I think more rigorous safety policies would be a start. And yearly mot type tests on machinery
  • They’ve done it by being strict. Trained staff only on site. Farming is lagging behind big style
  • The building industry has plenty of people working in a team where as most farmers are very often working on their own

What do you think about having a safety plan on the farm? Would this help reduce risks and would it be helpful?

  • The fact there has been time spent to think about it would make a change
  • Safety plans and risk assessments are a really good idea, especially when employing others on the farm
  • It could do, however it could only be a loose plan, due to the vast difference in just one job. There is so much variety.
  • Yes. Implementation is problem. Has to be a passion for ppl to do it. Often that passion is reactive instead of proactive.
  • Good idea, but surely a lot of this should already be covered under COSHH & assurance schemes etc
  • Safety planning a great start – think about consequences & take time out to think about dangers and how to reduce/remove them
  • It’s too easy to use budget constraints as an excuse for cutting corners. Safety plans can be a simple cost effective way
  • Agree using budget is often a cop out

Have events like Open Farm Sunday made the industry think more about health and safety? What are your experiences?

  • Risk assessments, hand washing, signage, info on zoonosis etc essential on any farm open days. Have fun but be safe!
  • FACE have done an excellent job in promoting open farm sunday and include health&safety as part of it
  • The farm is a place of work so should not be any different to other work places. H & S plans needed

What innovations and new technology has made farming safer? What new things would you like to see?

  • Technology has made farming safer, but without a change in attitudes will farming ever be safe?
  • Innovative training and education coupled with some form of checking process
  • Credit to Twitter et al – sharing stuff and communication between like-minded souls makes a positive difference?
  • Definitely the mobile phone you are nearly always in reach of help
  • Technology has made farming safer but if you do not get a change in attitudes you will always have accidents
  • Sensor that cuts the engine when people leave the cab-prevents people tinkering with ‘live’ but jammed bits of kit? Thoughts?

Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants, and Alan Spedding, 17 September 2013

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