Farmers urged to rethink risk to prevent deaths this harvest

The farming community is being urged to rethink risk to prevent more people from suffering serious injuries and fatalities on farms at harvest and throughout the year.

This year’s Farm Safety Week (19-23 July) will encourage people working in the agricultural industry to slow down, plan well ahead, and stop taking unnecessary risks.

The messaging from the From Safety Foundation, also known as Yellow Wellies, comes ahead of harvest, one of the busiest times in the farming calendar.

See also: NFU and NAAC issue pre-harvest farm safety advice

Farmers and farmworkers are often tired and stressed during harvest – a time when there is greater use of casual labour, as well as the operation of machinery and trailers, increasing the potential for serious injury or fatalities.

Farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland.

Latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that, in the year to 31 March 2021, there were 34 fatalities on UK farms, some 13 more than in the previous year, and showing farming as responsible for almost a quarter of all workplace deaths.

Since April, more than 12 people have this year been killed in farming accidents in the UK. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has described the situation as “dreadful” and “not good enough”.

Yellow Wellies will use the start of Farm Safety Week on Monday (19 July) to launch its 2021 Hero Film, to encourage those working in the industry to rethink risk, carry out risk assessments, and recognise the changing hazards and risks on a busy farm.

Further content on the dangers of tiredness, taking care in the countryside, and protecting your mental health will also be released during the week.

Rethink risk – Key messages

  • Despite accounting for only about 1.5% of the overall working population in Great Britain, agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for nearly a quarter of all fatal injuries in the workplace (HSE 2020/2021)
  • In Northern Ireland, farming accounted for five of the 13 workplace fatalities in 2020/21, representing 38% (HSENI)
  • Many fatal incidents on farms are avoidable

Source: Farm Safety Foundation/Yellow Wellies

Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people.

“A farm incident – whether fatal or causing serious trauma – can have awful, potentially lifelong consequences for a business, not to mention a family. Injuries on our farms are still happening much more often than they should and this needs to stop.”

Throughout the week the foundation, supported by Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland, will encourage those working in the industry to speak up for safety and make farms safer places to work.

• Support Farm Safety Week on social media using the tag @yellowwelliesUK and hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek for all posts, tweets and retweets.

Tips for staying safe this harvest

  • Carry out a daily visual check of trailers and record your findings – just as drivers of commercial vehicles are legally obliged to do. See Tilly Your Trailer.
  • Remember the maximum combination weight of a tractor and loaded trailer is 31 tonnes, while the maximum laden trailer weight is 18.29 tonnes.
  • Trailers should only be operated by trained and authorised personnel. On the road, they must be correctly hitched to the towing vehicle with lights connected and hydraulic or pneumatic brakes in working order.
  • Be aware that operating machinery and trailers increases exposure to noise, vibration and dust, which can contribute to fatigue and feeling unwell.
  • Farm employees and self-employed contractors should take ample water and food, plus any medication they may need, and must not be afraid to call for support.
  • Coronavirus is an underlying risk and it has the potential to bring businesses to a halt at a critical time if staff are made to isolate.

Source: Ceres Rural