29 December 1995

Its ATVsafety first for Welsh students

By Robert Davies

WELSH farming leaders admit that the industrys safety record is just not good enough.

Demonstrating an unusual degree of accord, the top NFU and FUW office-holders have urged members to take more care, and ensure that their employees understand the risks involved in operating machinery.

During the Bank of Wales sponsored day at the Welsh Institute of Rural Studies (WIRS), 500 first-year students from Welsh colleges each spent three hours watching practical demonstrations of basic safety when operating tractors, fork lift trucks, ATVs, chain-saws and sprayers, and when dipping sheep.

John Harries, WIRSs director of education, said the accident statistics were chilling, but safety was not an issue that appealed to young workers or students. "Today we are using interactive demonstrations to raise awareness. The safety message must be put over early, and then reinforced and built on through further training."

Farmer-instructor Phil Breese said ATV accidents were caused by a combination of poor technique, over-confidence, excessive speed and poor maintenance.

He showed students one machine that had so many faults it was a deathtrap. But he emphasised that a brand new one could also be lethal in careless hands.

Laurie Stockton, area director for the HSE, said the deaths of nine Welsh farmers in 1994, including six involving tractors and associated equipment, were not acceptable. Analysis of 1075 accidents had revealed that while everyone involved in farming was at risk, the 18-24 age group was particularly vulnerable.

Inexperience and the natural recklessness of youth contributed, but so too did lack of information and insufficient training. All sectors of farming must work together to cut the toll of fatalities and injuries.