Agricultural Health and Safety

During the last few years, statistics have consistently been showing alarming results for agricultural safety in the UK. Most people would probably not believe it, but it is a renowned fact among safety professionals that agriculture is more dangerous than construction or manufacturing. Every year, on average between 40 or 50 workers are fatally injured, accounting for the highest death rate in UK.

These persistently high rates of ill-health and fatal injuries are even more alarming, if we consider the tiny proportion which agriculture represents for the whole economy. The percentage of national income contributed by agriculture is around 0.5% and it directly employs in a full or part- time capacity around half a million people.

Some of the main problems leading to this high level of safety accidents in farming activities are the un-wise risk taking, the lack of safety training and the fact that most often people are working alone. Among the main causes of injury for the industry are the use of machinery, farm transport, falls from heights and electrical faults.

Apart from the general safety requirements contemplated in the law, duty holders dedicated to farming need to put an additional effort in safety procedures and have a second look on some of the problems. Essentially, more investment of time and money would save a lot of hassle, problems and ultimately- money.

– Training. One of the basic steps for professionals to take in order to avoid accidents in farming is to invest more in training. The law contemplates a large list of specific safety and skills courses, depending on the particular necessities of the agricultural activity. Good safety practice and training becomes a serious issue due to the constant fluctuation of the workforce in agriculture. Very often the contracted temporary workers are young workers or non- English speakers who need additional training, translation and attention in order to avoid serious injuries.

– Falls from heights is the second highest cause of death in agriculture. The Work at Height Regulations 2005 also covers agricultural work at height. Usually the most common reasons for falls in the farming industry are the inappropriate use of ladders, falls from unstable roofs and temporary structures, but mainly the use of unstable access equipment (such as buckets). Managers and duty holders have to bear in mind that this is one of the most common and costly accidents.

– Farm transport. Moving and overturning vehicles is also a common cause for fatal or very serious workplace injuries. The main priority of management needs to be to make sure employees are properly trained and hold the relevant driving licenses to operate the machinery. When employees are using lorries, vans, forklifts, tractors, cars, quads or other farming equipment, it is very important to be sure each worker is trained for the equipment and driving involved. It is common that an attempt of an employee whom is not holding an appropriate license, “to have a go” on a tractor for example, leads to somebody being seriously injured.

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