Health and safety issues in the agricultural and rural sector are a matter of considerable concern. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is urging farmers to make safety a priority to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities in the sector. This recent campaign was prompted by four fatalities over a fortnight, coming only weeks after Farm Safety Week.  

The four incidents arose in diverse circumstances, which should highlight the variety of risks working in a farm environment: a man died after a fall; a three-year old boy died following a collision with a vehicle; a man died after a crushing incident; and a man was found with fatal injuries surrounded by cattle. The HSE has also advised of separate reports involving members of the public being attacked by cattle.

Farming is a complex working environment but, given the risks posed by large machinery, operational decision-making on farms should place far greater emphasis on the health and safety of farmers and farm workers 

Farmers should not be lulled into a false sense of security or complacency, nor should they adopt an “it won’t happen to me” mentality. There are relatively simple actions that they can take to reduce the risk of injury:

  • switch off the power to vehicles/machinery before carrying our repairs;
  • keep workers at a safe distance from moving vehicles;
  • ensure workers are kept at a safe distance during the loading/unloading operations;
  • use safe and appropriate equipment when working at height; and
  • keep cows/calves away from fields with public footpaths.

Plainly, the emphasis must be on the effective management of risk. However, it would appear that lessons are not being learnt in the agricultural sector in the same way that they are in other sectors. There are also implications for insurance cover where risk has not been effectively managed.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s health and safety team is able to provide comprehensive advice on risk assessments and the prevention of incidents in the workplace, and to advise in relation to investigations and prosecutions. Please contact Hamish Lean, Head of Rural Property and Business, or Kevin Clancy in our health and safety team for further information.

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