Insurer highlights common farm safety pitfalls

South West insurer Cornish Mutual has released a series of videos to help farmers and landowners avoid common health and safety pitfalls.

The four videos were released following a recent practical health and safety day on a farm in Devon, which the insurer held in conjunction with Duchy College and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The event was delivered by staff from Duchy College’s Rural Business School as part of the South West Regional Skills Programme, with half-hour practical demonstrations about on-farm risks and how best to control and manage them.

 “We all get complacent, it’s not just about young people; everyone needs to constantly look at how they are doing things, and whether they can be safer.”
Jim Horrell, Duchy College

See also: The latest news and features on farm health and safety

The videos feature safety tips on machinery, quad bikes, telescopic handlers and handling dust and chemicals.

Jim Horrell a machinery workshop manager at Duchy College, ran a practical workshop on safe use of farm machinery, including power take-off shafts and how to manage them properly, safe handling of hydraulics, as well as regulations for farmworkers, training and obligations for employers.

He said: “Injury or death as a result of an accident involving machinery is one of the biggest health and safety problems on farms. 

“People working alongside large plant can easily get hit or crushed. Generally it happens in small, confined areas where people are either not seen, or are in an area they shouldn’t be. Children on farms are also a big problem; they can get into places where they shouldn’t be. 

“We all get complacent, it’s not just about young people; everyone needs to constantly look at how they are doing things, and whether they can be safer.”

Ray Piper, a farmer and land-based instructor from the Lantra Awards, delivered a quad bike workshop during the training day. 

He said: “There are more than a thousand reported incidents involving all-terrain vehicles or quad bikes each year, and those are just the accidents that get reported.

“We cover the importance of wearing the right equipment and head protection, and how vital it is for people to take their time – this is where youth can be an issue.”

Figures published by the HSE at the end of October 2014 showed there were 292 major injuries caused to farmworkers in the past year, and 27 deaths between 1 April 2013 and 32 March 2014.

While this shows a small drop on the previous five-year average of 395 injuries and 33 deaths, the injury rate for the industry is still worryingly high, with one in 100 workers working in agriculture. The sector also accounts for one in five fatal injuries, meaning the fatality rate is higher than any other industry.

Farming has led to the loss of almost 80 lives in the UK in the past decade, outstripping construction and offshore industries, and agriculture now accounts for up to 20% of all work-related fatalities.

In addition, the HSE believes there is gross underreporting of non-fatal injuries in the sector, as only about one-quarter of accidents involving farmworkers are estimated to be reported, and less than 5% of injuries to self-employed farmers.

HSE chairman Judith Hackitt said: “Britain has one of the best health and safety systems in the world, but that is cold comfort to those who have suffered loss or suffering that is so easily avoided with sensible and proportionate risk management.”

Watch more instructional videos recorded by Cornish Mutuals at farm safety awareness days.