Sadly, this year’s figures published by the Health and Safety Executive brought no surprises.
Every week I read on social media or in the farming press about somebody suffering a life-changing injury or worse – and the figures revealed there were 29 work-related fatal injuries in agriculture in 2017/18. Our industry has the highest death rate of all the main industry sectors.
Farm Safety Week was a reminder of how many organisations are doing great work to reduce the fatality and injury levels, but the figures remain grimly high.
The reality is, we’ll only improve our safety record if there’s a culture change. Many farmers think that health and safety simply means time-consuming and expensive bureaucracy. It doesn’t.
Staying safe is often about making improvements, rather than necessarily doing everything perfectly. The HSE often use the term ‘as far as is reasonably possible’. If you can’t eliminate a risk, you can still try to reduce it.
Having grown up on a farm, I know it’s vital to be realistic and to come up with practical solutions.
Turning a tractor engine off and taking the key out of the ignition when you get out of the cab, can save a life. Ditto having a laminated piece of paper to put on the seat or the dashboard if you’re working under the machine, telling other people you’re there. When grain trailers are moving through yards, it only takes one person to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to cause an accident, but something as simple as wearing high-viz clothes could prevent that happening.
Such things are so easy to do – why wouldn’t you do them?
The hectic harvest period didn’t stop when the combines stopped rolling. Harvest effectively goes on until October or November until cultivations and drilling are done. I think I’m busy – I’ve got nothing on my customers. There’s simply no let-up.
In this pressured environment, when people have so much on their minds, they don’t always think, they make mistakes and they can be tempted to cut corners.
Some farmers are really keen to prioritise this subject. Others never quite get round to it. Some might not think it applies to them because they’ve never had an accident before. It’s easy to become blind to hazards if you’ve done things in a certain way for a long time.
It’s sometimes a case of needing to stop, assess what you do and get the help you need.
The first step is through a risk assessment. When I do them with farmers, we identify hazards, then assess the likelihood of each one happening, along with its potential severity. This helps us decide the priorities.
The risks are not going to go away, but the reality is the vast majority of fatalities are avoidable.
It’s also useful to have someone look at your situation objectively as simple, low-cost measures that could save a life might not have occurred to you because you have so many other things on your mind.
At CXCS, our mission is to lower those grim H&S statistics and help farming businesses implement policies and mitigate the risks on their farm, safeguarding them, their families and their business.
Everyone has the right to return home at the end of each working day and, if I can stop one person from being killed, then my career will have been worthwhile.
- Established in 2009 by Charles Mayson, CXCS offers farmers a host of services, focusing on cross compliance solutions, farm safety, basic payments and farm assurance. We support farmers through many inspections and offer them the peace of mind and comforting knowledge that their documents will be handled and processed accurately and efficiently. See us at The CropTec Show or call the office on 01981 590514.