When it comes to some inspections, I reckon I’m probably like most farmers: I hate them. No matter how prepared you are, there’s always something you feel that you haven’t quite had time to do. If you haven’t washed the parlour floor, or you haven’t mobility scored your dairy cows for 6 months, you may fail, but it wouldn’t really matter. However, an inspection by the Health & Safety Executive is different, as they are there to look for things which could prevent a life-changing incident, or death.
I was recently chatting to a group of farmer friends on social media. They are all quite forward thinking and open about their systems and farms, so when we got chatting about farm safety it was no surprise that everyone had a story. But what did shock me was the first-hand accounts of serious injuries and even fatalities that they had witnessed – everybody had an experience to discuss.
Within this small group, there were stories of fatalities, lost limbs and other serious incidents. These events were life-changing, not just for those who where involved in the accident, but also for the farms and families.
If, for instance, you think that taking an extra two minutes to move a bull out of his pen before you give him fresh bedding straw is too much, just imagine how two months off work, after the bull slams you against the wall and breaks your leg, would affect your farm? Who would do the day to day work, the morning milking or going out to calve a heifer at 3am?
You could argue that it’s impossible to eliminate all risk, but maybe we should look at risk in a different way. If we thought about the potential consequences of taking a quick shortcut or using a poorly maintained piece of kit, then we probably wouldn’t be so blasé about it.
Forget playing the part of the macho farmer to your mates, or thinking you’re a hero because you worked for 22 hours with only 15 minutes break at harvest time. Your family doesn’t need a dead macho farmer. They need you for today and for the future of the farm. If we are worried about the HSE inspector visiting our farms and potentially finding a problem, maybe we should be sorting out the problem before it causes something far worse, and changes or ends our lives.