‘There is nothing inevitable about death and injury on farms’ – Norfolk farming leader’s safety plea as harvest approaches
- Credit: Chris Hill
The agricultural industry must work harder to improve its woeful safety record, says NICK DEANE chairman of the Norfolk branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU).
As NFU Norfolk marks its first 100 years, there's much to be proud of.
Farmers across the county are growing food to world-beating standards, providing jobs, boosting the local economy and looking after Norfolk's beautiful countryside.
But as we celebrate the past and look to the future there's one area that none of us can take pride in - our health and safety record.
However far we've come over the past century, we still have a long way to go to ensure our industry is a safe place to work.
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Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show there were 33 deaths in agriculture last year. Statistically, agriculture is the most dangerous industry, with 8.44 deaths per 100,000 employed, compared with an all-industry average of 0.45 deaths per 100,000.
Everyone in farming will know someone who has been killed, or seriously injured, in an agricultural accident and the impact this has on their business but, more importantly, on their family and friends.
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We can, and we must, do better.
I'm pleased to see the NFU taking a lead on this issue through the Farm Safety Partnership and initiatives such as Farm Safety Week in July.
The partnership is focusing on a different theme each quarter and from April it is concentrating on safety around livestock. This is the second biggest overall cause of fatal injury in the farm work place, second only to transport.
Last year there were eight fatalities as a result of contact with livestock. Many fatal incidents occurred in situations which could have been avoided if suitable handling facilities were available and used, lone working was avoided and an escape route was available.
There is nothing inevitable about death and injury on farms. The key is to assess the risks involved and find ways of managing them.
In my belief, a lot of health and safety is common sense, an asset we farmers pride ourselves in having, so there should be no reason why we can't improve this situation.
Ahead of harvest we are arranging a series of health and safety events across the region. This includes an event at Wood Farm, Marsham on July 3, hosted by NFU Council Delegate Tony Bambridge.
There will be a series of presentations during the day, covering trailer safety, vehicle speeds, weights and licences on roads, UK Power Networks on power lines, workplace transport and a presentation by the fire service.
However busy everyone is before harvest, I hope farmers, and farm staff, will find the time to attend. It is vital we work together to ensure that, in the years to come, our poor safety record is consigned to the history books.