Pre-harvest safety briefing could save lives

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Farms and estates are recommended to hold pre-harvest health and safety briefings as a reminder to all staff of the risks involved during this busy time of year and what steps they should take to mitigate them.

Robert Gazely, health and safety specialist with Strutt & Parker, said harvest was an intense time of year so making time to thoroughly brief all employees, both new and existing, was essential.

“Farms become busier not only in terms of workload but also machinery movements and numbers of employees – including temporary harvest staff – operating together,” he said.

“Pre-harvest health and safety briefings are strongly recommended as a way of reinforcing the importance of health and safety issues and are a practical way of providing employees – and family members – with the information, instruction, training and supervision that they need to stay safe.”

Mr Gazely said briefings should include information such as the location of first aid kits, accident books, assembly points, fire extinguishers and electric isolation points.

Workers should know who the qualified first aiders are and who to report any accidents and injuries or any damage or defects to machinery, as part of a positive safety culture.

They should also be provided with a copy of the farm’s working health and safety policy, risk assessments and safe systems of work, and should sign to confirm they have read and will comply with them for the duration of their employment.

A map showing workers the location of all overhead and underground services is another essential step.

If taking on temporary workers, it is also important to assess their competence and check what certificates they hold and take a copy of them, and to ascertain their prior level of knowledge and experience.

If employees are not instructed and trained in the use of machinery or equipment, they must not operate it unless under the direct supervision of a qualified member of staff or trainer.

“Other considerations at this time of year include ensuring that machinery servicing and maintenance, including record keeping, is up-to-date and making sure everyone is familiar with the safe stop policy,” said Mr Gazely.

“This requires drivers to use the handbrake, put the controls in neutral, switch off the engine and remove the key every time they leave the seat or when anyone else approaches.”

Strutt & Parker is a member of the Farm Safety Partnership which aims to reduce the number of deaths on farms by at least 50% by summer 2023.

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