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NFU column: With almost one death a week on farms, how to stay safe

16:00 23 February 2014

Adam Scott at a health and safety event

Adam Scott at a health and safety event

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A week after Valentine’s Day and for many the commercial pressure to write cards or buy roses has, along with the anticipation and excitement, faded for another year, writes Adam Scott.

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But the real feelings about who you most want to see when you get home will not have changed. And neither will the thoughts of family and friends who want to see you come home safe.

Agriculture’s record on making sure people do come home safe is something that leaves plenty of room for improvement. In 2010, agriculture became the most dangerous industry in the country, based on fatalities per worker.

Over the past decade there have been over 455 deaths. This equates to almost one death every week. In the same period, 1,700 people were seriously injured on farm. Self-employed farmers, their staff, families, and public have all been involved. All are deeply affected.

For Essex, 2013 was a distressing year with two deaths and a number of serious injuries from falls and fires across the county. The danger points fall into four main areas: slurry, animals, falls, and equipment. Much good work is being carried out to improve the situation, with the NFU and NFU Mutual taking a leading role.

The NFU Mutual’s risk management services are provided to farmers through their local network of NFU branches, who are also able to provide NVQ accredited training courses.

The NFU has also been instrumental in developing the self-funded industry group, the Farm Safety Partnership. This is based at the NFU headquarters at Stoneleigh. The partnership includes the key organisations with an influence over health and safety in agriculture.

Recent campaigns have included Safe Stop, stressing the importance of turning machines off and applying brakes before leaving a machine. More information is available on our website, www.nfuonline.com. Locally, rural training groups are again delivering a wide range of courses that provide valuable hands-on material. These avenues all provide practical ways for tackling safety issues on the farm.

I recently attended a HSE-run Safety and Health Awareness Day (SHAD). The day provided an opportunity to see and hear practical demonstrations on some key topics, such as lift trucks and site safety, use of ATVs, trailer braking and maintenance, machinery safety, roofwork and ladders and chemicals and health. There was also an additional demonstration on overhead power lines.

The farmers and staff there all recognised some areas where they could work more safely. Seeing how ineffective low quality dust masks are or how simple convex mirrors can aid driver visibility were inexpensive changes that would improve day-to-day safety.

The next SHAD is on 25 February, at Great Tey Colchester but places are now very limited. To find out more and to register go onto the HSE website agriculture page. There is much free advice on the site too so it really is worth taking a look http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/diary.htm

Spending some time thinking about the risks on your farm or by attending a SHAD day could help you fulfil that promise to come home safe. Do it for yourself, your family and your farm. This will help make sure that if you are buying flowers this year, you are doing so for the right reasons, not the wrong one.

n Adam Scott is the NFU’s County Adviser for Essex.

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