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A guide to agricultural injuries and training

A recent first aid course for farmers was a great success dealing with life threatening injuries and the immediate steps that can be taken to help save a life.

Whilst that’s obviously a good result, it would be a bigger win if the accident could be prevented from happening in the first place.

 

I don’t suggest that you can remove all risk, and accidents can happen in any industry, but we know that not only is farming a sector where there is the greatest risk but also the accidents are more likely to be fatal.

 

The reasons are well known including:

  1. Lone working. Often this cannot be prevented but does that mean there is nothing you can do?
  2. Accidents involving working with heavy machinery
  3. Accidents involving livestock
  4. Falls from height
  5. Attitude - health and safety being seen as a bit of an “add-on” or an inconvenience stopping you from getting on with the job rather than being embedded in how you work.

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So what can you do?

Well the starting point has to be assessing your risk. Don’t see it as a tick box exercise.

 

If that’s all you see that’s all it will be. You know the job and if you put pen to paper or keyboard to computer, a record of the key risks won’t be hard to list. From there, you need to be realistic about how you can reduce those risks and what actions you are going to take.

 

If lone working is a risk, can you get a lone worker alarm? Can you agree a system for checking in with another person?

 

When working with machinery, use it only for the job it was designed for. Don’t disable the safety features.

 

Short cuts make long delays. Don’t carry out home-made modifications, and switch it off when you get out. So many people have been run over by their own machinery, it seems it is all too often a lesson learned when it is too late.

 

When heavy machinery overturns, it is frequently fatal to the driver so ensure anyone who uses it is properly trained on it.You may not be able to take away all risk but you can reduce it.

 

Injuries by animals

 

Injuries by animals are a major cause of fatalities. HSE (Health and Safety Executive) guidance is that many incidents involving cattle happen to people beyond normal retirement age, when they are less agile.

 

You should consider the risks carefully before anyone over 65 works with cattle. Fundamentally, none of us are immune to aging and reactions are slower as we age, however much hard won experience we have of the job.

 

Height

Falls from height are another big risk. This can often be because the equipment you are using is unsuitable for what you hope will be a “quick” repair to a roof or similar.

 

Ladders should only really be used as a last resort. Over the last 3 decades, I have pursued a high number of claims for accidents on construction sites and many of those involved the use of ladders or inappropriate equipment when working a height. If there is ever a moment to ask yourself whether you can do something safely, I would suggest that this is it.

 

Maintenance and training

 

Make sure that it is clear who is responsible for maintenance and training, and have a clear structure in place. Keep a record of the training and when refreshers are needed. Have a system for ensuring machinery is regularly serviced. It is important to know who to report problems to and important to know who should be the person to sort them out.

 

Where these things are not clear, they can become nobody’s job. The tendency to be informal in these matters when everyone is quite experienced and knows their job leads to necessary repairs not being done.

 

A working farm is always going to be a place where there are ongoing risks some of which, such as working with pesticides, have a longer-term impact rather than the more immediate risks this article discusses. A greater focus on accident avoidance should be to everyone’s benefit.

  • Kathryn Hart is a Partner in Lime Solicitors’ Personal Injury team.
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