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Students learn to deal with the dangers of a farming career

PUBLISHED: 08:01 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 08:01 12 April 2018

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Farming’s next generation learned how to deal with the hazards of working in one of the UK’s most dangerous occupations during an eye-opening safety training session.

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLYFarming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

About 60 students at Easton and Otley College, near Norwich, were confronted with realistic mock-ups of dangerous farming scenarios in a training day aiming to reduce the toll of injuries and fatalities on the region’s farms.

“Bean bag” mannequins were used to depict the victims of accidents involving agricultural machinery, cattle and overhead power lines. Students were shown how these accidents could have been prevented, and how to respond if they were to discover a similar situation in their own, often isolated, workplaces.

Steph Berkley of the Farm Safety Foundation, which developed the half-day course, said: “These students are about to enter the profession with the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK. If they want to do this for the next 40 years they need to have the right attitude to health and safety.

“It is not necessarily just the knowledge, it is having the right attitude – always looking at what could happen. So the logical thing for us to do is to show them what an accident looks like. The chances of them finding a member of the family or a manager in this position are actually quite high.”

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLYFarming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The training replicated common accidents on farms: Someone hit by a moving farm vehicle, a piece of clothing caught in a 900rpm power take-off unit, a crushing injury in a cattle pen, and a farm worker electrocuted after a farm machine struck overhead power lines.

Helping to push home the safety message was Jack Fisher, whose father Peter Fisher was killed at the age of 54 last year when heavy Hesston bales fell while being prepared for unloading from his lorry at a farm in Cranworth, near Thetford, last February.

Jack, who is an ambassador for the Farm Safety Foundation and works at a dairy farm in Shipdham near Dereham, said: “I think when they hear a story like that from someone like me, it hits home harder. It turns from being a day out at college having a joke into something they really pay attention to.

“If I ask any one of these students they will know someone who has been killed or injured in a farm accident.

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLYFarming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

“We didn’t have health and safety demonstrations like this when I was at college, which was not that long ago. I learned as I went along, with experience. If it saves just one person by helping out at events like this, then it has done its job.”

One of the students was 20-year-old George Lenihan, a first-year farming apprentice from Hardingham, who said: “I knew Jack’s dad, so I know the dangers of agriculture.

“I do think there is some complacency between the older and younger people on the farm. The older people can be set in their ways, while the younger people are trying to be safe. It has always been the same, but keeping up to date with technology as well as getting a job done safely can be quite tricky sometimes.”

Dan Goodwin, 20, from Bury St Edmunds, added: “My employer had me on health and safety training course two years ago, but this is always a good thing to keep up to date with. A lot of people here have just started as apprentices and they don’t know a lot about health and safety – and some of this will kill you, so to know what could happen and how to deal with it is really important.”

Farming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLYFarming health and safety course at Easton and Otley College. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The training was funded by the Chadacre Trust. David Barker, a trustee of the charity, said: “Farm safety is absolutely vital for everyone. But those who are embarking on a career in agriculture need to appreciate the risks and dangers, and to instil good habits from the beginning.

“I have been in the industry for 50 years, but you cannot be complacent, and the industry is always changing. There are bigger machines and people are working longer hours, under greater pressure. So safety is extremely important.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive, 27 farm workers lost their lives in the workplace in 2016/2017.

For farm safety tips and accident prevention advice, see the Farm Safety Foundation’s Yellow Wellies website.

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