It's 2019: It's time to improve farm safety

Children Farms

In 2017/18, 33 people were killed in agriculture in Great Britain. Four were members of the public and two of these were children.

Winter can be one of the loneliest times of the year for some and 2018 saw farming magazines flooded with tragic headlines of injuries and fatalities across the industry.  These have involved adults and children.

Working in agriculture is the most dangerous job in Great Britain and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are amongst many organisations committed to reducing incidents and raising awareness. The Farm Safety Partnership Campaign aims to raise awareness for promoting best practice in agriculture, with a focus on transport and machinery, child safety, falls from height and livestock on farms.

‘Even changing a light bulb can have dire consequences’

Tim Papworth. Fourth generation farmer from Norfolk. Photo credit: NFU 

Tim told his humbling story about when he fell from height at the Oxford Farming Conference in 2018, and his story reminds us all of the consequences an incident has on more than just the individual.

Listen to his full story here

 Tim has highlighted that a considerable number of agricultural incidents are caused by a fall from height and shared his thoughts on the need for careful planning:

“Even changing a light bulb can have dire consequences if not planned out and risk assessed appropriately. I know from my own experience what damage can happen to your family and farming business if it’s not done safely.”

‘Farmers are always short on time, ten more minutes won’t hurt’

Andy Venables. Dairy farmer, owner of Hillsgreen Marketing Consultants and father to George and Ethan.

Andy explains that farmers are always short on time and you are always chasing your tail. Whether its jabbing heifers or sorting the herd out for AI, ten more minutes won’t hurt, especially if there is just one of you doing the job.

As Andy says: “The farm is both a place of work and a home and you need to be constantly aware of the boundaries. Even if the kids are playing on the New Holland toy, a real tractor could come around the corner at any point. The boys are at the age where they want to be involved and you don’t want to always be the Dad that says no. You never think it’s going to happen to you, but when when you say yes, the focus needs to be on the boys and not getting a job done like feeding the stock.”

When Andy takes the kids out he says that applying common sense is vital, and you need to accept that what you are doing won’t be done in the two minutes it would without children present, as supervising them must be the priority.

Lots of farmers will recall helping their family out on a Sunday afternoon before a roast as a child, but did you know that you are breaking the law by letting children under 13 ride in, ride on or drive farm vehicles?

Turning to Twitter, the farming community were asked “How old were you when you first drove a tractor?” Over 70 per cent of farmers had driven a tractor by the age of 13 (267 respondents). Farmers were really engaged with this poll and votes were followed up with comments of how old they were and what the brand of tractor was, the youngest being five years old! Whilst farmers enjoyed telling these stories, it is so important that the law is followed, especially considering the high potential for accidents when using vehicles.

The most common cause of serious and fatal injuries in agriculture involve moving and overturning vehicles. Machinery is used on farms every day, ranging from a tractor drilling next year’s crop to taking the quad bike out to make checks on ewes that are lambing. Remember these four key areas when using any equipment:

  1. Safe Stop – before getting out of or off a vehicle, use the handbrake, put the controls in neutral, switch off the engine and remove the key.
  2. Safe Vehicle – check that vehicles, machines and handling equipment are suitable for the work and capable of safely performing the jobs to be done.
  3. Safe Driver – check that drivers are medically fit and trained to drive. Remember, never allow passengers to ride on or in vehicle cabs unless they are sitting on a passenger seat in a safe position. No-one should mount or dismount a moving vehicle. Wear a helmet when riding an ATV.
  4. Safe Site – check that vehicles and pedestrians are separated where possible.

Farming is a wonderful career, but it is also demanding and requires a lot of hard work and long hours. As this article shows, farming can also be very dangerous. It is vital that the competing demands acting on farmers don’t lead them to neglect safety standards, both for their benefit, and the protection of others.

Author: Rachel Watling