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Health and Safety: Focussing on Farming

Added: 23 Jul 2012 16:36 - Workplace Health and Safety

With our fertile fields, the UK is, and has always been a large farming power. Figures from DEFRA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, show that 70% of the land in the UK is used for agricultural purposes and that the industry directly employs 476,000 people, a statistic they say has unexpectedly risen from 2010 to 2011.

However, despite numerous high-profile health and safety campaigns, the agricultural industry remains the most dangerous UK industry to work in and on average, 40-50 people are killed every year – a sure sign that farmers are still not taking health and safety seriously enough. The recent campaign ‘Make the Promise. Come Home Safe’ won two prestigious awards at the PR Week Awards: Public Sector PR Campaign of the Year and also Campaign of the Year. The campaign engaged agricultural workers emotionally and dramatised the impact of a death on a farm, asking farmers to ‘Come Home Safe’. When it comes to health and safety, the audience of the agricultural industry has always been particularly difficult to reach as the way of working is handed down through generations. The campaign has been successful and reached a good proportion of the farming community, but there is certainly more work to be done.

A recent survey run by Natwest Mentor that looked at attitudes of Farmers towards the introduction of a comprehensive health and safety management system into the agricultural world found that more than half of the 376 employers who responded said that they did not have a documented health and safety policy and 30% of them had never given employees any health and safety training.

The most common causes of accidents were handling livestock, working at height (an issue which is high across a range of industries) and operating machinery.

Health and safety may be a bug bear for many, but you can’t deny that the introduction of a thorough and comprehensive system into the farming industry would undoubtedly make a difference to the accident toll. Britannia Safety Training is a health and safety training company near Norwich, Norfolk – an area with a high percentage of land attributed to agriculture. Unfortunately, as we can see in the agricultural industry, Health and Safety is sometimes deemed to be bureaucratic, unhelpful and costly. Colin Wright, Managing Director of Britannia Safety and Training says otherwise. “If written and implemented correctly Health and Safety can be easy to manage, productive and good value.” He goes on to say, “Any injury to an employee is unacceptable and 50 fatalities a year is a situation that cannot continue. The moral, ethical and legal duties of employers are clear and there are interactive solutions are available to solve the problem.” By working alongside the guidelines of the HSE, Britannia hopes that they can help to make a difference in the agricultural sector.

There are many precautions that farmers can take to secure their health and safety position other than enrolling on training courses, and one way to do so would be to implement a comprehensive health and safety management system. It may be daunting at first glance but this can be aided by an OHSAS 18001 certification – the world’s most recognised occupational health and safety management standard. OHSAS 18001 will streamline health and safety processes, allowing them to be simplified and more easily manageable. This way, those working in agriculture will be able to keep on top of their risk management documentation, ways in which they need to reduce the risks and also be reminded of any training which needs to be carried out.

Health and Safety is no laughing matter, and with the HSE working and campaigning hard in the agricultural industry we should hopefully see a reduction in the accident and death toll, making it a safer working environment for all.

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