The Health and Safety Executive has announced that it will be undertaking a programme of targeted inspections on farms across the country and that farmers who fail to manage workplace risk will face serious penalties.
The announcement follows a series of HSE compliance events run last year designed to change behaviours and attitudes in the industry.
Agriculture has the poorest health and safety record of any industry in Britain. The sector represents 1.2% of the British workforce, but accounts for 20% of reported work-related deaths each year, along with an estimated 13,000 non-fatal injuries each year.
“The strong message coming from the HSE is that death and injuries should not be viewed as an inevitable part of farming,” said Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist with Strutt & Parker.
“Inspectors are going to be particularly focused on key hazards: machinery, falls from height, children and livestock. They are also prepared to get tough with people who are failing in these areas – warning that they will not hesitate to use enforcement procedures to bring about improvements.
“The HSE has recently produced a new simple and succinct guidance note called What a good farm looks like which lists the steps people should be taking to address common risks.
“This is a timely reminder for those who don’t have a health and safety policy to implement one, and for those who do, to ensure that their risk assessments and safe systems of work procedures are reviewed.
“The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires the employer to prepare a written statement of health and safety policy, while the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require the employer to appoint a competent person to assist in undertaking the measures necessary to comply with health and safety legislation.
“This can be a suitably trained, experienced and knowledgeable member of your existing team, but it can be valuable to get the input of an independent advisor who will bring a fresh pair of eyes to the farm or estate to identify hazards, record findings and make recommendations for improving practice.”
Top tips to staying safe:
- Risk assessments and safe systems of work should be reviewed annually or when new or increased risks arise.
- HSE recommends refresher telehandler training every 3-5 years, and refresher chainsaw training every 5 years for frequent users, or every 2-3 years for occasional users.
- Lone working is common in farming, so should be risk assessed. Practical solutions include making sure people keep mobile phones charged and on them at all times or the use of lone-worker and man-down two-way radios.
- A health and safety briefing should be held with all employees prior to harvest to remind everyone how to maintain a safe working environment and go about their roles safely at a busy time of year.