Health and Safety on Farms

Health and safety need to be implemented in all aspects of working life, and agriculture and farming is certainly no exception. When working on a farm, there is often heavy machinery, vehicles and a range of other potential hazards which, unchecked, could lead to serious damage and injury or even death. This includes equipment such as straw spreading machinery, cattle crush equipment and others.

Most people are aware of their workplace’s health and safety procedures and policies, but when it comes to farms, this is not always properly considered. In the last ten years in the UK alone, almost one person per week as been killed as a direct result of agricultural work. Countless others have become ill or have been seriously injured as a direct result of their work.

Everyone wants to return home from work each day unharmed, safe and well. Good farmers and employers recognise the benefits of reducing incidents which may lead to injury and cause the ill health of their employees. Most farm owners and agricultural employers are also well aware of the financial implications of not adhering to a strict health and safety policy and so will maintain goods standards on their farms.

Health and Safety, as in every other business, should be regarded as a vital part of farm business management and should be prioritised. Unwise risk-taking is an underlying problem in the agricultural industry which many are seeking to overcome.

The Costs of Farming Injuries

The personal costs of injury or ill health as a result of work-related issues on farms can be devastating. It can also stop an individual from working for a long time and being a serious enough ailment or injury, may even go so far as to stop them working in that industry forever.

Benefits of Risk Management on Farms

If you manage the existing and potential risks in a sensible way, you can have peace of mind that you are protected. As well as personal protection, you will be protecting your family, your workers and your business. Doing so can have many benefits:

  • A reduction in injuries and ill health which may result in financial problems and high personal costs
  • The productivity of your workforce will be improved if that feel protected. Overall a good morale and a happier, healthier workforce
  • Better farming practice to help you to develop a sustainable farming business
  • The ability to carry out weather-critical operations when necessary, not being hindered by otherwise small issues such as ice or snow
  • There would be reduced sickness payments and recruitment/training costs for replacement workers
  • Reduced loss of output resulting from experience and competent workers being off work
  • Your equipment and machinery are likely to have a much longer life
  • You will have lower insurance premiums as well as legal costs
  • There is less chance of enforcement action and its costs, for example. the costs of dealing with fine or an incident
  • There will be a reduced risk of damage to the reputation of the business

Injuries and Ill Health in Agriculture

Farming is understandably a rather hazardous industry. Farmers and farm workers will be working with potentially dangerous machinery, chemicals, livestock, vehicles and in a variety of places. They will also be exposed to all types of weather, including bad weather and will be exposed regularly to potential hazards like loud noises and excessive dust. The risks also include family members working at and children living at the farm.

Work in agriculture also tends to be physically demanding and the repetitive nature of it can cause a number of health problems. For example, cattle crush equipment, used incorrectly can lead to bone breakages and other nasty injuries.

With high rates of fatal injuries, agriculture, forestry and fishing comprise one of the riskiest sectors. Over one in a hundred workers work in agriculture, but it accounts for about one in five fatal injuries to workers across the UK.

Costs and Causes of Death and Injury on Farms

The total cost of injuries in farming, forestry and horticulture sectors is estimated to be around £190 million. Apparently, around two thirds is due to reportable injuries (£130 million), with fatalities accounting for a further third, equating to around £55 million.

The most common causes of death when working in the industry are:

  • Being hit by a moving vehicle
  • Being struck an object that is moving or falling such as a hay bale or trees
  • Falling from a height
  • Drowning or asphyxiation
  • Contact with machinery
  • Injury by an animal
  • Being trapped by something overturning or collapsing
  • Contact with electricity, nearly two-thirds of which involves overhead power lines

There are a lot of other injuries listed that do not result in death. Less than half of reportable injuries to workers across all industry sectors are reported each year, but the level for agriculture, forestry and fishing is much lower. Surveys have suggested that those injuries to works in agriculture which should be reported by law, only a very small 16 per cent actually get reported.