Health and safety crackdown aims to reduce farm deaths

NFU East Anglia regional board chairman Will Dickinson checks the integrity of his tractor and trail

NFU East Anglia regional board chairman Will Dickinson checks the integrity of his tractor and trailer. Picture: Adam Fradgley - Credit: Adam Fradgley

The new year has brought a renewed drive to improve agriculture's woeful health and safety record – with farmers being warned to expect serious penalties for failing to manage workplace risks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is about to launch a programme of farm inspections focusing on target areas including machinery, falls from height, children and livestock.

The HSE says it will not hesitate to use enforcement actions to improve compliance and reduce accidents in an industry with the poorest safety record in the country.

The latest figures show 33 people were killed in agriculture across Britain in 2017/18 and, in the East of England, eight people have been killed in agricultural accidents during the last five years.

HSE's head of agriculture, Rick Brunt, said: 'We are seeing signs of a change in attitude across the farming industry and while this is encouraging, these inspections act as a reminder to farmers of the importance of managing risks so that everyone can go home from their work healthy.

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'Everyone involved in farming has a role to play. Farmers, managers and workers are reminded that death, injuries and cases of ill-health are not an inevitable part of farming.'

Meanwhile, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) are launching a year-long safety campaign in 2019, working towards the goal of reducing fatal accidents on farms by 50pc by 2023.

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NFU East Anglia regional board chairman Will Dickinson said: 'Safety is all about managing risk by removing it or controlling it. It used to be that when we were tipping grain in the shed, a yard man would manually open the back. This operation was risky, so we got rid of that by getting hydraulic power boards that removed the need for a manual operation. The easiest way to make yourself safe is to take away the risk.

'The newest generations of tractors have a park facility and many of them have a safe stop mode built into this. You just slot it into park when you stop the tractor and you don't even need to move your hand. Securing your tractor before leaving the cab is one easy way to stop being run over and will make a big difference to your safety and reduce the number of accidents in farming vehicles.'

Mr Dickinson also said farmers needed to take responsibility to ensure farm vehicles were safe.

'Brakes must work, tyres need to be on wheels correctly, oil, fuel levels and brakes need to be checked along with everything that makes a vehicle work safely,' he said. 'Checking can take a bit of time but if you don't things always seem to go wrong when you least want them to do so and can cost even more time while you are trying to fix them.'

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