There’s no doubt that farming is a hazardous occupation in the UK, as while this industry accounts for just 1.8% of the region’s total workforce, it contributes approximately 19% of all reported fatalities.
This means that health and safety remains a huge priority for farmers and agricultural service providers alike, from individual workers who use heavy duty machinery to companies like the Wynnstay Group that supply products to farms nationwide.
In this article, we’ll consider the main health and safety risk factors facing farm and agricultural workers, while asking how these can be overcome.
Assessing the Main Health and Safety Risks on Farms
In order to ensure that your farm provides a safe working environment for employees, the first step is to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment and appraise the main threats to your workers’ physical wellbeing.
In general terms, however, there are four main causes of serious injury and death on UK farmlands. These can be broken down as follows:
- Being Struck by Moving Vehicles: Various vehicles are regularly active on farms, from combine harvesters and feed milling machines to the lorries that delivers goods on-site each and every day. Most tend to be heavy duty vehicles, so being hit or struck by one of these can result in significant industries.
- Contact With Machinery: Using heavy duty and powerful agricultural machinery is incredibly hazardous, and contact with this everyday equipment is another primary cause of injuries on farms. Workers are also at risk at being trapped by falling or overturning machinery, so this is another point to keep in mind.
- Falling From Heights: Farmers also have to work at height, particularly when working on or maintaining often cumbersome agricultural buildings. In the course of this work, you may also risk coming into contact with electricity and overhead power lines, creating an even bigger challenge for farm workers.
- Handling Hazardous Substances: Farming involves the widespread use of pesticides, which are deployed as a way of protecting plants and crops from pests and diseases, including potato blight. These substances can be inherently harmful, with acute pesticide poisoning one of the most common health problems reported by agricultural workers.
How to Manage and Overcome These Risks
Now that you understand the most prevalent risks generally associated with working on a farm, the next step is to identify viable solutions. Here are some ideas that can help you to create a much safer working environment for your employees:
Ensure That Vehicle Drivers are Competent and Qualified
In order to avoid any injuries or collisions involved agricultural vehicles, you’ll need to ensure that your hired drivers are fully qualified.
For example, tractor drivers must all have a category F licenses to operate a vehicle and drive on a public road, while they should also be fully insured and protected at all times.
We’d also recommend keeping your vehicles secure and locked away when not in use, to avoid the risk of unqualified or underage (under 13) people from riding them.
Maintain Your Machine Regularly
The key to safeguarding agricultural machine operators is to create a proactive maintenance schedule, which makes allowances for both scheduled and unscheduled repairs.
Frequent checks enable to guarantee each machine’s mechanical safety, while potentially highlighting issues and correcting them before they become too problematic.
In the case of vehicles, you should focus primarily on the functionality or brakes and indicators and their level of performance.
Provide the Necessary PPE and Regularly Replace Dust Filters
If you do drive an agricultural vehicle, you may notice that being sat in a cab for extended period of time exposes you to dust and potentially harmful fumes.
So, you’ll need to ensure that drivers are provided with masks and similarly important pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), while we’d also recommend regularly replacing dust filters to further reduce the risk of chest conditions and asthma.
From a broader perspective, you should ensure that a full set of required PPE is provided to all workers. This will vary depending on your job role, but is likely to include goggles, gloves, hi-viz jackets and protective clothing.