A man works on a farm building's roof© FLPA/REX/Shutterstock

Health and safety inspectors will be visiting farms across the country over the next month to ensure measures are in place to prevent falls from height.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says 27 people were killed on farms in 2016-17. And a staggering 13,000 people in Britain’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors suffered non-fatal injuries during this period.

Falls are the second most common cause of death on British farms – every year at least eight people die falling from a height.

See also: FW Academy – falls from height

Those who survive suffer broken bones and life-changing consequences. Falls often happen from roofs, lofts, ladders, vehicles, bale stacks, and unsuitable access equipment, such as buckets or potato boxes.

Farmers are reminded of the range of free HSE guidance on the simple things to do when working at heights. Often it is best to bring in a contractor who will have the right equipment and skills to do the job. 

Inspectors will be checking how the risk of falling from height is being controlled during building maintenance, including whether work at height can be avoided, if the right equipment is being used and is in the appropriate condition.

The HSE will be checking if farms are using specialist contractors for high-risk tasks, if there are signs to warn people of fragile roofs and whether the work is being carried out by workers with the right training and skills. 

Asbestos checks

They will also be assessing how exposure to deadly asbestos is being prevented, including whether there is an up-to-date plan showing where asbestos is present on a farm, whether asbestos is labelled or marked.

Also, workers and contractors should be made aware of where the asbestos is located and how the removal of asbestos is planned, organised with a safe method of disposal. 

Launching the latest inspection initiative, HSE’s head of agriculture Rick Brunt said: “Falls from height are still one of the main causes of death and injury on Britain’s farms, and each year too many farmers are working with asbestos and breathing in dangerous fibres. 

“HSE is calling on anyone involved in building maintenance and repair work on farms to use the free guidance from our website to make sure they comply with the law and do the job safely.”