"There needs to be baseline compliance with health and safety legislation, but some feel the big players over-egg it and ask for far more than the regulations require," he said. "That helps nobody. Over-compliance takes away money that you need in your profit margins. But it's hard to fight back because if you say: 'I'm not doing that,' they will say: 'You haven't got a contract.' The HSE won't get involved."
But he warned growers that they are now liable for the costs of HSE inspections when these uncover breaches of legislation. "Compliant businesses pay nothing but the cost for others is £124 per hour. The intention is those who take the risk should pay rather than the taxpayer. Currently the HSE recoups £2m every two months across all sectors and £50,000 to £60,000 from farms."
Farms are a priority for inspection due to the sector's poor safety record, added Walters. "The industry employs 1.5 per cent of the working population yet equates to 15 to 20 per cent of fatal accidents each year."