Farmers are being urged to make sure their health and safety policies are up to scratch in advance of a programme of targeted farm inspections by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) this spring.
The HSE inspections are designed to ensure that those responsible for protecting themselves and their workers are complying with the law, to help them prevent death, injury and ill-health.
If they are not, HSE will use enforcement powers to bring about improvements.
According to HSE head of agriculture Rick Brunt, the inspectors are “not trying to catch people out”, but he wants people to “improve their attitudes towards health and safety, and understand what a good farm looks like”.
The new programme follows a series of “compliance events” that were held in four regions of the country last year and attended by more than 1,000 farmers.
Agriculture has the poorest health and safety record of any industry in Britain. The sector represents 1.2% of the British workforce, but accounts for 20% of reported work-related deaths each year.
The HSE also estimates there are some 13,000 non-fatal injuries each year, and 17,000 cases of ill health, especially lung disease and musculoskeletal disorders.
Robert Gazely, health and safety specialist with Strutt & Parker, said: “The strong message coming from the HSE is that death and injuries should not be viewed as an inevitable part of farming.”
“This is a timely reminder for those who don’t have a health and safety policy to implement one, and for those who do, to ensure that their risk assessments and safe systems of work procedures are reviewed,” he said.
The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to prepare a written statement of health and safety policy where there are five or more employees.
If there are less than five, then there still has to be a policy in place, but it does not need to be written down, though Mr Gazely strongly recommends it is documented, regardless of the size of the business.
The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires the employer to appoint a competent person to assist in undertaking the measures necessary to comply with the law.
The HSE has a range of resources and guides available to help employers and employees improve health and safety on farms.
More information on what topics the inspectors will be looking at when they visit farms can be found in the guide What a good farm looks like
Top tips to staying safe
- Risk assessments and safe systems of work should be reviewed annually or when there are new or increased risks.
- HSE recommends refresher telehandler training every three to five years, and refresher chainsaw training every five years for frequent users, or every two to three years for occasional users.
- Lone working is common in farming, so should be risk-assessed. Practical solutions include making sure people keep mobile phones charged and on them at all times, or the use of two-way radios.
- A health-and-safety briefing should be held with all employees before harvest to remind everyone how to maintain a safe working environment and go about their roles safely at a busy time of year.
Source: Strutt & Parker