According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the agriculture sector has the highest rate of worker fatalities with a total of 48 lives lost in farm vehicle incidents in the last five years. As such, farming remains one of the UK’s most hazardous activities.
This year the HSE will maintain its focus on the industry with the most recent HSE statistics showing that over the past five years, the average fatal incident rate is 21 times higher in agriculture than the average across all other industries.
HSE safer British farms campaign
The most common cause of serious and fatal injuries in agriculture involves moving and overturning vehicles. It is little surprise therefore that the HSE has launched ‘Safer British Farms’, a campaign to reduce deaths and injuries caused by farm vehicles.
According to the HSE’s statistics, incidents involving moving vehicles have been responsible for 30% of all fatalities on farms over the past five years with hundreds more injured in incidents involving moving vehicles on farms annually. The campaign calls for the farming community to work together and do what they can to reduce the number of injuries involving vehicles in order to save lives.
To support this, the HSE has created a dedicated website for the campaign, which contains a range of advice, practical tips and various resources for those in the industry. This supplements the HSE’s own website with a section dedicated to agriculture, which can be found here.
The three step message of the Safer British Farms campaign is clear:
- Safe farm
- Safe driver
- Safe vehicle
The detail around how this can be achieved can be summarised as:
Operate a safe farm – keep people and vehicles apart
- Segregate vehicles and people with clearly marked routes and walkways to keep them apart to avoid serious injuries.
- Use barriers and posts in high traffic areas to protect people and save lives.
- Use signage, good lighting and a high visibility clothing to help everyone be seen on the farm.
Maintain a safe vehicle – detect faults now before it’s too late
- Regularly check and maintain brakes. Trailers must have brakes designed for the maximum loads and speeds at which they will operate.
- Ensure a seatbelt is fitted and worn every time.
- For vehicles which have doors fitted as standard, make sure the doors are attached securely and remain closed when the vehicle is moving.
- For vehicles that have mirrors fitted as standard, double check they are fitted securely and are clean to ensure optimum visibility.
Be a safe driver – pause, take a moment to be a safer driver
- Use the handbrake every time. To prevent serious injury if the vehicle moves due to the terrain or gradient, follow the simple safe stop routine before getting out or off a vehicle: handbrake on, gears in neutral, engine switched off and the key removed.
- Ensure training has been undertaken.
- Think visibility to protect everyone on the farm, whatever the vehicle - ensure mirrors and windows on the vehicle are clean and when manoeuvring, take a moment to consider where the blind spots are.
The HSE recognises the significant pressure British farmers continue to face and the Head of Agriculture Policy at the HSE, Sue Thompson, has stated the HSE wants to: “support the farming community to show that safety on the farm doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive.”
A more personal approach than we are perhaps used to seeing with the HSE is being promoted in this campaign, with farmers and farm workers being encouraged to think about what would happen to their families and their farms if they were seriously injured and unable to work. Those in the industry should, however, remember that the HSE remains a regulator and will undoubtedly take enforcement action against a duty holder in the event of a breach of health and safety legislation.
There are high stakes at play here as the HSE currently has a 96% conviction rate and this is all on top of the costs – both tangible and intangible - of a HSE investigation, which in the agricultural industry can often have a greater impact, simply due to the nature of the work.
It seems that the aim of the HSE Safer British Farms campaign is to work towards changing the culture within the industry, making the changes part of the daily routine and so ensuring a safer working environment. Ultimately, those in the industry should take time to familiarise themselves with the advice and guidance that is available and in the event of an incident, seek support at the earliest possible stage to ensure their position is protected.