With the Health and Safety Executive reporting that fatal injuries in agriculture are now 18 times are high as the average rate across all industries, all eyes are once again on how to prevent injuries.
Just 30 minutes a day could be the difference between life and death.
This was according to David Kirwan, managing director at Kirwans law firm, who said all eyes were on how to prevent injuries in the agricultural sector.
Just last week the Health and Safety Executive reported that fatal injuries in agriculture were 18 times as high as the average rate across all industries.
Mr Kirwan said: “Farmers often have so many business issues to think about that health and safety considerations are often at the bottom of their ‘to do’ list.
“By taking just 30 minutes out of their day to perform basic checks, they could spot a potential risk that may prove to be lifesaving.”
Here, David suggests 10 easy safety checks all farmers can carry out today:
1 - Identify obvious risks
Identifying risks might seem an overwhelming task, and it is true that eradicating them can take time and money.
But there are also obvious ones that can be easily removed in minutes.
Are there bales of straw piled just that bit too high? Unwanted pesticides that should be disposed of rather than stored?
Or maybe hand-held electrical equipment is looking worse for wear.
Any of these could pose a risk of serious injury or death, but would take less than an hour to sort out.
2 - Check rights of way
Many farmers’ fields have right of way or permitted public access, which can put members of the public at risk of aggressive animals.
Any injuries or damage caused by one of the herd could result in the farmer concerned being held liable under the Animals Act 1971.
To avoid potential problems, consider the temperament of all cattle in fields where there is public access, and remove any bulls of dairy breeds that may be grazing there.
Alternatively, consider whether walls or fencing should be erected to protect animals from aggressive animals and ensure signs are clearly displayed warning the public of possible dangers.
3 - Read up on workplace safety regulations
It is easy to overlook workplace safety regulations, but if you employ people to work on your farm, there really is no excuse.
Spend some time reading up on the regulations, make immediate changes where necessary and possible, and plan time in your diary to look at those regulations that will need more time and effort to implement.
4 - Carry out a risk assessment report
An up-to-date risk assessment identifies any potential problems.
It is also legally required by the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 if you are an employer or self-employed, along with details of how you plan to remove or control the risks.
Have a look around the premises and see what hazards and dangers you can see. Are there any clear dangers to the public and your employees which pose an inherent risk?
If there are, then prevention is better than cure.
The HSE has put together a helpful guide to completing a risk assessment for farms which can be found here.
5 - Tidy up
A number of health and safety hazards can be removed simply by tidying up, decluttering and ensuring there are no cables left lying around and that floors are not overloaded.
Not one of the most interesting jobs perhaps, but definitely one of the most important.
6 - Make sure hazardous chemicals are properly handled
Ideally, farmers will have by now switched to safer alternatives, but in cases where this is just not possible, you should be able to demonstrate that you have control measures in place.
These should include always replacing lids on storage bins, installing dust extraction and wearing protective clothing where necessary.
The health of your employees should also be properly managed so that associated conditions such as asthma can be identified at the earliest possible stage.
7 - Check your machines
One of the easiest ways to ensure your machines remain as safe as possible is to carry out regular maintenance checks.
When you purchase a machine, make sure it carries a CE mark, really read the operator’s manuals and consider whether you are using your machines in accordance with the instructions, or whether familiarity has caused you to become a little relaxed about following them to the letter.
If you are at all unsure as to whether your machine is operating correctly, call in an expert to have it examined.
Remember, too, the need for properly fitted ear protection if noise levels exceed the legal limits.
8 - Practice good hygiene
Perhaps the most basic point, but one that is easily forgotten, is the need for workers to wash with soap and water and dry their hands before eating, drinking or smoking.
Are gloves and waterproof aprons available for employees when handling potentially infectious material such as birth, muck or sewage products?
Also, are protective coveralls, boots and eye protection available should suspected cases of animal diseases present themselves?
These are all vitally important in preventing the spread of disease, and can be easily implemented.
9 - Handling animals
There are always risks when handling animals; the key is to minimise them as far as possible.
When handling animals in the field, never try and separate them from their herd alone. Instead, have at least two people with you to keep the other animals away and alert you of any potential issues.
Be prepared, too, for the herd becoming aggressive by keeping a vehicle nearby in case you need to escape.
10 - Make sure your ladder is safe to climb
Ladders are often used on the farm but there are cases where scaffolding would be safer.
Before your employee starts a task involving ladders, carry out a proper risk assessment to ensure that a ladder is suitable for what is needed.
Can a platform be used? It may incur an additional cost, but it is worth it to ensure an employee’s safety.
Inevitably, ladders will be used on some occasions, and a 10-minute check can mean they remain well maintained and free of defects.
Look out for missing, worn or damaged feet which can cause the ladder to slip, and check the rungs are not bent or missing.
For stepladders, also check the locking bars and platform and ensure they are not damaged, bent or buckled.