Farmers who take on staff to help them over the harvest period should make sure all workers are given a clear safety briefing before they start work.
David Canty, consultant with Strutt & Parker and a specialist on health and safety issues, says it is vital to give an induction to harvest staff, who may be pushing themselves hard in terms of effort and hours working.
This will help to protect workers and reduce the risk of accidents occurring in the first place.
In the event of an incident, it will also offer some protection to the farmer as the Health and Safety Executive will ask questions about the procedures in place to ensure worker safety.
“Harvest staff are frequently students who are keen and ready to prove themselves in the industry, but you must take time to give them a briefing on safety and a good tour of the farm to make sure they know where everything is,” says Mr Canty.
Strutt & Parker
“The induction should apply to all workers even if they have worked on the farm before, as things may well have changed,” he adds.
Mr Canty says he would suggest that farmers work though the following checklist:
- Get the correct contact details of all workers – as they start work, double check all the contact details you hold for them.
- Get next of kin details in case of an accident – in the event of an incident it is vital that the right people can be contacted quickly.
- Circulate phone numbers of all workers on the farm so that everyone can be contacted when necessary.
- Give everyone a guided tour of the farm, plus a copy of a farm plan with locations of any overhead cables and ditches/dykes marked on to it.
- Show all workers where to find the isolation points for electrics, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, wash facilities and toilets.
- Identify any jobs that they are not allowed to do and explain the reasons why.
- Determine if anyone has any allergies or illness that others need to be aware of and what symptoms to look for. Examples might include diabetes, or workers who react to bee and wasp stings as people will need to know where to find epi-pens (adrenaline) if necessary.
- Ensure all workers are capable of doing the job they are being employed to do. This means making sure they can reverse a trailer safely and operate the machines they are going to be operating.
- Obtain copies of driving licences and their certificates of competencies for applying pesticides (PA), using telescopic forklifts and chainsaws. Check passport and work permits if necessary.
- Explain what to do in the event of an accident such as who should be the person that is called.
- Talk through the management structure of the business and who they should report to in the event of a problem if their usual manager is not available.
- Explain what is expected of them during the course of their employment.
- Run through the farm’s lone working policy and hours of work.
- Ensure staff are checked on during the course of the day either via telephone, radio and/or face-to-face checks. Ensure everyone gets home safely each night and if they are working late ensure you know where they will be working and what time you expect them to finish. Get staff to text or call you to let you know they have finished each night if you won’t be seeing them.
- Explain the policy and requirement to report defects or breakages and to who they should report them to.
- Explain your smoking policy, making it clear smoking is banned in vehicles and straw fields.
- Distribute any personal protection equipment – such as dust masks – and show them where replacements are stored.
- Run through general safety advice such the safe stop procedure. This requires workers to put the handbrake on, leave all controls and equipment safe, stop the engine and remove the key before leaving the driving seat, or if someone is approaching or working on the machine. Explain any hygiene considerations including the leptospirosis risks of working in grain and/or feed stores.
- For workers who will also be expected to handle livestock, explain any dress requirements – this may be necessary if there are biosecurity requirements.
- Where animals are involved advise workers if there are any animals which are particularly flighty or to be careful of.