According to statistics, agriculture has the highest fatal accident rate of all British industries. Across the world, agriculture still has a long way to go, causing over 700 deaths between 2003 and 2015 in Australia and in the US, over 400 people died from agricultural related incidents in 2016 alone.
The fact remains that across the world, there is still a lot to be done to improve the safety of agriculture to reduce the injuries and fatalities that continue to occur year on year.
If you have a farm, or even just a small leaseholding, you are currently at risk of various hazards that commonly injure others in your industry across the world. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to improve the levels of safety on your farm or smallholding so that the risk of injury is reduced.
Keeping It Simple
Although there are lots of details involved in improving the safety of your farm, it really comes down to this process:
Identify – Identify all the hazards on your property, highlighting the most dangerous hazards
Eradicate – Get rid of all the hazards that can be completely removed
Isolate – If you can’t get rid of hazards you can separate them and isolate them so they don’t spread risk to other areas
Minimise – Minimise the hazards that can’t be isolated or eradicated
Monitor – Monitor all hazards
Record – Record all hazards, risk management, actions and anything done in relation to your safety processes.
Following these processes will ensure that you are able to maximise safety levels on your property in the most formal, straight-forward way.
Getting Expert Help
You don’t have to be an expert in safety to create your very own safety procedures. You are an expert in your field, and your employees are the same. You may however, need some initial guidance from a professional to get things in order. This is particularly relevant when it comes to legalities as any incidents that do occur may quite literally push you out of business if you are found to be negligent in health and safety on your property. As well as protecting yourself, you have a duty to provide a safe work environment for your employees. Health and safety isn’t just a personal project, it is a necessity for a working business looking to stay on the right side of the law.
Identifying Risk Factors
One of the most important things you can do to get your health and safety process in order is to do a risk assessment. Assessing where the risks are, what risks they pose and how they can be eliminated or minimised is an excellent start to getting on top of your health and safety. There are lots of helpful resources available if you want to do the risk assessment yourself such as:
- https://www.gov.uk/guidance/farm-health-and-safety (UK)
- http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/casestudies/poultryfarm.htm (UK)
- https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/agriculture#codeguides (AUS)
- http://www.rga.org.au/f.ashx/farm_safety_starter_guide_1349.pdf (AUS)
- https://newfarmers.usda.gov/risk-management (US)
Alternatively you may want to employ a health and safety professional to do your first risk assessment for you and to help you set up a safety system with a paper trail and the relevant processes in place to effectively manage your farm safety. You can get excellent guidance on hiring a health and safety professional here and here.
A Few Tips To Get You Started
Every farm is unique and every business management style is unique, so it is important to approach your health and safety in a way that suits your abilities and goals. To get you started, here are some great general suggestions for improving the safety on your farm:
Update Old Equipment
One of the quickest ways to improve farm safety is to update old equipment. New farm equipment has been made to be safely operated and handled, whereas older equipment may not be up to scratch. For example: older stationary farmstead equipment may not have an audible warning device on it, whereas that kind of feature is expect in modern equipment. Another good example is agricultural fuel oil stored on the farm that exceeds 1,500 litres. There are new regulatory standards in place in the UK which means you may need to switch to protected systems like a bunded fuel tank.
Establish Clear Communication
Poor communication accounts for around 30% of project failures. Your new safety changes, processes and procedures are a big project and it is really important to focus on communication to avoid failure. Be communicative with your employees, your colleagues and your customers. It may help to use a central organisation and communication app that everybody can gain access to, so everybody is literally on the same page.
Figures from the UK government show that between the end of 2014 and the end of 2017 around 614,000 workers were injured in incidents that occured in the workplace. Simply having an employee off work costs the business money. However, when you think about an incident injuring (or worse) an employee because of safety negligence, the costs are a lot higher. Not only is there a person injured or who has potentially lost their life, but your business could be fined thousands (and in some cases more) for negligence. This could take your business down and ruin your livelihood. Staying legal and ensuring you meet all regulatory standards on your farm protects the future of your business.
Safety is something that you have between your ears, not something you hold in your hands – Jeff Cooper
The safety of your farm is completely in your control, but you have to make that initial effort to identify the risks and do something about them. A really good safety management system is also key, so that there are strict and clear processes in place for a continued high level of safety on your property. Every effort you make to improve your farm safety, is another step towards protecting yourself, your employees and your business.