The biggest machinery dealers in the South West have agreed to work together to help reduce the number of farm accidents and fatalities.
Following a spike in farm deaths in February, Devon Young Farmers Clubs hosted a meeting to try to tackle farm safety.
“Very sadly, in March, one of our members – Lauren Scott – was killed in an accident by what we believe to be a pto shaft,” explained Nick Creasy, Devon YFC county organiser.
“Too many of our members have been killed or seriously injured – we need to do something substantial and try to make a real difference.”
Top tips for farm safety
- Don’t rush when carrying out farm tasks.
- Ensure your pto shaft is guarded.
- Ensure personal protective equipment is available and used.
- Spend on safety – it could save your life.
Farming is the most dangerous activity on dry land – with more farm fatalities in Devon and Cornwall than any other part of Britain, said Rob Pearce, principal inspector for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
“We see more and more farmers using big, powerful equipment, but they haven’t kept up with where they ought to be in terms of safety,” he added.
“Most accidents in agriculture are due to three main things; no brakes, unguarded pto shafts and not wearing seatbelts.
“The worrying thing is, farmers are aware accidents are caused by these things, but are still being unsafe.”
Safety at the forefront
To tackle this, Devon YFC has formed an agreement with local dealerships to encourage them to ensure safety is at the forefront of their priorities.
In total, nine dealerships and engineers have agreed to:
- Provide a discount for an annual health check on pto shafts and brakes
- Produce an advisory notice to flag up safety issues on machinery
- Back the Devon YFC kitemark standards for dealerships to show their commitment to farm safety
With the very youngest or oldest generations often the most common victims of farm tragedies, Chris Bennister from dealer Mason Kings said a lack of training and experience with new machines accounted for many of the issues on farm.
“Machines are getting more powerful – we need to ramp up the training.”
It’s also crucial to ensure workers feel responsible for reporting any faults, said James Trout, independent agricultural engineer and beef farmer. “We have to move away from the idea of safety being neglected due to busy workloads.”
Mr Trout also said legal enforcement could be a tough but necessary way to make farmers realise how crucial machinery maintenance was.
“If there are financial penalties for having machinery that isn’t up to standard, it will push safety and maintenance up the priority list.”
Farm safety facts
- 10 fatalities occurred in February 2017 alone – exceeding the annual monthly average of three.
- 29 fatal injuries were reported in 2015-16.
- The most common cause of farm deaths in 2015-16 was due to farm vehicles – accountable for 24% of deaths.
- One person is killed every nine days as direct result of agricultural work.