Easy safety precautions put forward for growers

Simple precautions, particularly around vehicles, could help to reduce farming's stubbornly high workplace death rate, Health & Safety Executive (HSE) principal inspector for the sector Dr Andrew Turner told the UK Vining Pea Conference earlier this month.

Dr Andrew Turner
Dr Andrew Turner

Farming employs 1.5-two per cent of the population but is responsible for 15-20 per cent of work-related deaths, amounting to nearly one a week, he said. "In the last 20 years the total figure has halved, but there has been a fall of less than 10 per cent in agriculture in that time."

Among farm deaths, 56 per cent are recorded as self-employed - "the farmer", said Turner. "It's also the only industry that kills members of the public and children in significant numbers." He added: "We know the fatalities figures are right, but we think around 60 per cent of non-fatal workplace accidents aren't reported."

Nearly half of all workplace deaths were caused by machinery, including vehicles, a figure that excludes road traffic accidents. "Any farm vehicle is capable of running you over," he said, pointing out that the victim in three-fifths of such cases on farms is the driver. "Almost 10 per cent of deaths could have been prevented by applying the handbrake." Stopping the engine, setting controls to neutral and removing the ignition key before getting out are other simple precautions he urged growers to take.

On quad bikes, Turner noted: "No one has died of head injuries while wearing a helmet, unlike many who weren't. Tyres are also often over-inflated." Meanwhile, seven out of every eight electrocutions on farms are caused by contact between vehicles, which continue to get bigger, and overhead power lines, he said. He recommended that growers download or order the HSE Farmwise guide, saying: "If you do all that's in it, you will have very few accidents and probably no deaths."


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