Agriculture remains a high-risk industry as recent figures by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show. According to the HSE, agriculture, forestry and fishing has consistently ranked as one the riskiest industry sectors with high rates of fatal injury. Just over one in a hundred workers work in agriculture, but it accounts for about one in five fatal injuries to workers.

The media regularly report on accidents in the farming industry. A recent case in Minnesota, US, sadly resulted in three fatalities after a farm accident saw three members of the same family, including an 11 year old boy, overcome by toxic fumes in a grain silo.

But why exactly are farms such a high-risk environment?

There are a few reasons why accidents are more likely to happen on farms:

  • Working environment: farms tend to be in rural locations with staff being exposed to the elements, and lone working is common. Farm buildings can be in a state of disrepair without adequate lighting and exit routes. There is also a higher risk due to confined spaces such as silos and storage tanks.
  • Common use of hazardous chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers. Fumes and toxic gases are also commonly found on farms.
  • Heavy machinery causes numerous accidents on farms, be it due to dangerous parts, non-maintenance of vehicles and machines, or workers simply not knowing how to use the machinery properly.
  • Livestock: the nature of working with animals means it’s a sometimes unpredictable environment

So what can you do to minimise risk?

Change in attitude

A change in attitudes is required to encourage a more open-minded and proactive attitude to safe working practices. Workers and visitors should be able to point out risks and questioning unsafe practices without fear of judgement.

Get prepared

A solid Health & Safety policy and thorough risk assessments can help prevent accidents and highlight gaps in current Health & Safety practices. An effective risk assessment should include practical suggestions for risk-reducing steps.

Training

Training employees and contractors in the safe use of machinery, chemicals and how to handle livestock, as well as in life-saving First Aid skills, can help reduce accidents.

Resources

The HSE and National Farmers Union have both been active in trying to promote safer working practices on farms. Last year, the HSE conducted health and safety inspections on rural farms over a three months period, and they have issued Farmwise – the Essential Guide to Health & Safety in Agriculture, which you can download here.

Did you know that Alpha offer bespoke Health & Safety courses, such as First Aid, Confined Space or Working at Height? We can bring the training to you, anywhere in the UK, for 4 delegates or more. Just get in touch with our team.