Down On The Farm

Farming is part of the United Kingdom’s lifeblood – it runs through our country’s veins. Agriculture in our country uses approximately 69% of our country’s land area, it employs around 1.5% of it’s workforce and contributes 0.62% of it’s gross added value yet sadly farmers and agricultural workers account for 15-20% of all workplace fatalities. It makes agriculture, fishing and forestry the riskiest sector to work in with the poorest record of health and safety of any sector in the UK.

Farm Safety Week is in full flow and this year is focusing on saving lives. Farm Safety Week began 4 years ago in a bid to raise awareness and to reduce the number of accidents in the farming sector. This year, the theme offers a focus on falls which are currently the second highest cause of fatalities in agriculture.

Farm Safety Week

In 2014/15, 33 fatal injuries to farm workers were recorded, that’s a rate of 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers which is significantly higher than any other industry – a startling six times higher than in the construction sector.

Within the last 10 years, almost one person a week has died as a direct result of agricultural work, a significantly higher number more have been seriously injured or suffer from a work place illness.

Rick Brunt, Head of Agriculture, Waste and Recycling Sectors from HSE was quoted saying “This year, Farm Safety Week is focusing on the power of the positive. We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to make farms safer places to work”.

Farming is an obviously hazardous industry with potential issues arising from machinery, vehicles, chemicals, livestock, working at height or near pits and silos. There is also the consideration of the exposure and effects of bad weather, noise and dust. In a traditional sense, there are often a variety of ages living on the farm as well as part of family life, this can often include young children.

As well as being a devastating and upsetting scenario within any sector, the impact of serious injury and death has a huge financial impact on society and the industry with the total annual cost for this sector estimated at £190 million, fatalities in farming, forestry and horticulture equates to a third of that (approximately £55million).

The most common causes of fatality in agriculture includes transport, being struck by moving or falling objects and falling from height, there are also many reported fatalities caused by asphyxiation or drowning, machinery, animal, becoming trapped, and contact with electricity.

Due to the nature of the agricultural sector and the work it brings, it can be exceptionally demanding both physically and mentally, it comes with a range of health problems, including musculoskeletal injury (including back pain, sprains or strains) which is over three times higher within agriculture than within any other industry.

It is estimated that within agriculture, approximately 12,000 people suffered from an illness that was caused by, or made worse by their job, the number of people affected by asthma is twice the national average and over 20,000 people per year are affected by illnesses passed from animals to humans.

Despite the high figures involved with injury in this industry, HSE estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 unreported illnesses and injuries within this sector every year and that only 16% of injuries, which should be reported by law, are actually reported.

Long term and disabling ill health is prevalent within the agriculture sector with heavy exposure to dusts, heavy handling loads, noise, heat, cold, exposure to sun, working with animals, using chemicals, vibration and working in uncomfortable positions can all cause ill health, some with symptoms that can take years to develop and which also may result, in some extreme cases, in premature death.

In order to sustain a successful and safety friendly industry, it is vital that health and safety is of fundamental importance and should be an essential part of every business within the agriculture sector.

When you look at the reasons for following the rule book where health and safety is concerned, it’s hard to see why business owners are cutting corners, the potential to prevent injuries and ill health will save the business money, limited damage to your companies reputation, a chance to save money by not having to deal with legal costs when issues arise, saving money on high insurance premiums, preserved machinery and equipment and a reduced loss of output and income with a safe and competent workforce. Overall better farming practices will develop a consistently sustainable farming business.

We at BN SHE Consultancy Ltd are dedicated to ensuring that businesses are compliant with health and safety laws and legislation. If you’re unsure about your obligations regarding health and safety within the agricultural sector or have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and let us know; or 01981 540 197.

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