29 August 1997

NFU against launch of TGWU safety scheme across nation

By Tony McDougal

A PILOT farm safety scheme, set up by the Transport and General Workers Union to cut agricultural fatalities and accidents, is set to go nationwide despite opposition from the NFU.

The pilot scheme, which has been operating in the south-east, south-west and East Anglia, has won backing in a report to be published in November by Londons Southbank University for the Health and Safety Executive.

Under the venture, which had financial support from the EU Commission, nine trained farm workers visited farms to raise awareness of health and safety issues among farm staff. There have been 100 deaths on farms over the past two years.

Mike Sebastian, HSE agricultural and wood sector spokesman, said the scheme had been successful. "There is a basis for a wider national scheme, which with goodwill and co-operation would raise standards of farm safety."

While the HSE is not prepared to fund any nationwide scheme, Mr Sebastian said it would be happy to provide additional training and back-up.

But the NFU said it believed the TGWUs scheme was not the most beneficial way forward, could drive a wedge between farmers and farm workers and would be prohibitively expensive.

Bryan Collen, chairman of the NFUs technical services committee and health and safety working group, said farm access would have to be on a voluntary basis. And it was unlikely the farms which needed to be targeted would become involved in the scheme.

"There would need to be a very substantial input financially and in terms of manpower and we believe there are better ways of channelling support – such as through open meetings – to get the health and safety message across."