Protecting your farm or estate: tips for managing risks and hazards in agriculture
The farming industry makes up less than 2% of the workforce yet, staggeringly, accounts for 19% of all fatal injuries in the workplace. Further data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that over the last ten years, nearly one person each week has been killed directly because of agricultural work. Considerably more have been seriously injured.
Those figures alone paint a vivid picture of how hazardous farming can be and why safety precautions and comprehensive farm insurance are crucial. We outline common farm dangers and offer tips on minimising the risk of injury.
- What are the main hazards on a farm?
- How can farmers prevent accidents?
- What are farmers’ obligations for ensuring staff safety?
What are the main hazards on a farm?
The type of hazards you face will largely depend on the type of farming you do. Typically, the most common farming accidents involve:
Vehicles and machinery
Any new machinery you buy must be stamped with the UKCA and CE mark to show it meets safety requirements. You’ll also need to check it comes with a certificate of conformity, operating instructions and guidance on noise levels (if necessary).
You must also comply with the conditions set out under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (LOLER).
It goes without saying that the safe use of work equipment means that employees should be properly trained before using any machinery. Anything mechanical should also be routinely maintained and serviced.
Further guidance on vehicle and machinery safety can be found here.
Falls from heights
The consequences of ‘taking a chance’ when working at height can be devastating. Risk can be easily avoided by using the right equipment, securing a ladder, or using a scaffolding platform to reach heights. If you’re working on a roof, check its stability and use appropriate equipment to lower the risk of falling, particularly if it’s fragile or made of glass. If possible, always look for an alternative way to complete the task without working at height.
Lifting and handling
Musculoskeletal damage because of work-related incidents affects nearly half a million workers in Britain, and damage can potentially lead to long-term problems.
To stay safe, consider whether items need to be moved at all. If they do, look for ways to minimise manual lifting. For example, can you use equipment or machinery instead? If you have forklifts onsite, operators will need to be properly trained.
More advice about manual handling, specifically in an agriculture context, can be found at the HSE.
Dangerous substances include pesticides and cleaning chemicals, slurry which can release toxic gases, medicines, additives, paints, and lubricants.
As well as ensuring facilities are well ventilated, and substances are properly stored, employees should use face masks and other protective equipment. Be aware that dust from grain can trigger asthma attacks, and ensure that you and affected employees regularly monitor risk scenarios.
Animals should be properly penned in with fences regularly checked to ensure they’re secure. Workers should be trained to manage the animals they’re handling.
Equipment such as a cattle crush or race should be secure and function properly to minimise animal stress. You and your employees should also be able to work safely around animals while this equipment is used. Livestock insurance is important to protect your assets from financial loss due to mortality, infertility, theft, and disease, in situ or transit.
How can farmers prevent accidents?
Needless to say, no one should risk their life for work, and while it’s impossible to stop all accidents, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the chances of one happening, for example:
Implementing control measures
Control measures are steps you take that aim to stop or minimise a particular hazard or reduce the risk of an accident. For instance, if you store pesticides or other chemicals on site, control measures could include ensuring that:
- storage facilities are properly ventilated;
- containers are secure and clearly labelled;
- anyone handling these items has access to protective clothing (PPE).
Carrying out health and safety training
Health and safety is sometimes ridiculed for being over the top, but as statistics show, safety measures (or lack thereof) could be the difference between life and death. With that in mind, it’s good practice to give employees the training they need – you can find useful links for agricultural safety training on the HSE website.
What are farmers’ obligations for ensuring staff safety?
One of the most important pieces of employment law is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It sets out what employers must do to make the workplace safe for staff and the public (if this applies). Failing to make sure that procedures are robust and that assessments take place can lead to an unlimited fine and even imprisonment.
To help ensure you assess all potential hazards, it’s a good idea to put in place a risk management strategy which should identify potential hazards and outline reduction measures.
How can Alan Boswell Group help?
We understand that farming isn’t quite like other industries and that needs will vary tremendously based on the risks associated with your farming practices. Our dedicated farm specialists can help you with all aspects of risk management, engineering inspection services, and health and safety training.
As a farm owner, it’s important to consider the financial risks your business will face and how tailored agricultural insurance can protect your assets. For more information and to speak to an expert, call a member of the team on 01603 218000.