As anyone who works in agriculture knows, farms, country estates and forests have more than their fair share of hazards. The statistics speak for themselves; most dramatically, the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector has a fatality rate that is second only to construction and 18 times the average across all industries. There is also a much higher risk of non-fatal injury and illness due to work issues.
According to HSE data, four percent of agriculture, forestry and fishing employees suffered a work-related illness, and a further four percent suffered a work-related injury. A total of 13,000 cases of work-related illness were reported in 2014/15; 60% of the illnesses were musculo-skeletal disorders, almost three times higher than other industries.
Farm and agricultural work often requires the use of potentially dangerous machinery in a non-controlled outdoor environment. The handling of animals also presents an obvious risk, as does the use of heavy vehicles, often in off-road situations. Another major issue to be aware of is the use of chemical and biological substances.
Less obviously, labouring outdoors can expose agricultural workers to a greater risk of skin cancer. Agriculture-specific illnesses include farmer’s lung, a condition caused by inhalation of dust and spores from mouldy hay, grain or straw that can cause permanent disability or even death.
The most common cause of death in agriculture is being hit by a moving vehicle. Being struck by some other object, falling from a height and being injured by an animal or by machinery can also be fatal.
Non-fatal injuries are most commonly caused by slips, trips or falls. Lifting and handling injuries are also frequently reported, as well as accidents relating to machinery or animals.
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Most farms and estates have comprehensive risk management schemes in place to protect their employees, their business and, if necessary, members of the public, however, risk assessments need to be carried out as situations change. In addition, the rotation of tasks and regular breaks can be as important as secure fences, machine guards and vehicle maintenance. Engage the services of a risk management specialist if you’re unsure of the risks you face and how to reduce the chances of them happening.
The statistics show that even with the most rigorous risk management, accidents and work-related illnesses can still happen. Employer’s liability insurance is essential in order to protect your workers and your business in the event of them making a claim. Public liability insurance is equally necessary if the farm or estate is open or accessible to the public at any time.