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Guy Smith: Farming is not an inherently dangerous industry - we must improve

The way we manage risk on our farms simply has to improve. Farming accounts for 1% of the UK’s workforce, yet 20% of all workplace deaths in Britain happen within the farming industry.

It is demoralising and frustrating that many of these fatalities occur in similar circumstances, and that these accidents could easily have been avoided.

 

Farming is not an inherently dangerous industry. Working on farm is not the equivalent of running across a battle field under cross-fire.

 

Most dangerous situations are caused by our own bad practice, and can be prevented by reducing and managing the initial risk.

 

We teamed up with the Health and Safety Executive just last week to hammer home this message at the Safe and Healthy Farming for All Ages event.

 

Let’s be clear, I’m not trying to preach. I shudder to think how often I’ve climbed onto moving machinery to save a few seconds, and I confess that the ‘short-cut’ devil still sits on my shoulder telling me it will be fine to leave the loader running as I handle something on the forks.

 

It’s also taken me too many years to realise that a disregard of danger is also a disregard of my family, and that I failed to consider their welfare every time I put myself at risk.

 

But there are signs that things might be improving. It strikes me that our younger farmers are taking farm safety more seriously.

 

habits are usually old habits, and we would do well to listen to our sons and daughters when they advise us to redesign our cattle-handling facilities, or spend the £100 to replace a PTO guard.

 

Too many farmers I meet feel that farm accidents are in some way inevitable. This is not the case. If the construction industry can reduce its fatalities and injuries by 80% then so can we.

 

Our appalling safety record costs the industry millions, as well as the serious distress that farm accidents cause to those affected.

 

Receiving notifications of deaths on farms is the worst part of my job as NFU Vice President, and I don’t want to receive any more.

 

This is a call for the industry as a whole to come together and minimise risk so that all farmers can work confidently and safely for years to come.

 

Guy Smith, NFU Vice President


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