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From the editor: Even a single on-farm death is still one tragedy too many

This week’s Farmers Guardian front page reinforces the devastating horror that can be wrought on a family following a health and safety incident.


Ben   Briggs

Ben   Briggs

The tragic story of three-year-old Stuart Nelson’s death on-farm should be enough to act as a wake-up call for everyone in the industry.

 

As summer holidays loom for school children everywhere, Stuart’s story starkly illustrates the dangers that can lie in wait on every farm, even though they are workplaces that mix domestic and professional concerns like no other.

 

Yet, despite these graphic case studies and the continued efforts of the Farm Safety Partnership and other industry partners, the toll of death and serious industry on our farms remains sickeningly high, with 29 people dying in the agricultural industry due to health and safety related incidents in 2017.


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A range of factors contribute to this ongoing crisis.

 

These can include farmers having to do more with fewer resources; general lack of time; not taking the correct safety precautions such as wearing a helmet on an ATV; or the simple belief that because something has been done a certain way for years, it is therefore safe. None of these actions are borne out of malice, but the results can be tragic.

 

Taking steps to improve health and safety on farm must be a key target for every level of the industry. While this week’s FG highlights the danger facing children, tragic incidents can hit farmers of any age or physical capability, with those in the older age bracket often vulnerable as they are unable to react to problems with the speed of thought and movement they once did.

 

And this summer, more than many, is upping the risks on farms across the country. The relentless heatwave is presenting a raft of new challenges, whether that be machinery and crop fires during harvest, or cattle growing more restless and unpredictable as temperatures rise.

 

Farming can be a tough and relentless job which often puts pressure on all involved, but hurting yourself in the process is a price that is never worth paying.

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