With Farm Safety Week launching next week, health and safety experts are urging farm managers to be aware of the hours their workers are doing.
Ahead of Farm Safety Week, which kicks off on Monday (July 4), farm managers are urged to keep a close eye on the working hours of their staff to help prevent tiredness and fatigue.
Latest RIDDOR figures show 33 agricultural workers lost their lives in 2015, a rate of 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is significantly higher than any other industry sector – six times higher than construction.
The busy harvest period is a time when the risk of an accident occurring could increase – particularly with more large vehicles out on the roads and a greater reliance on potentially inexperienced seasonal staff.
Oliver Dale, managing director of Safety Revolution, said there was a lack of clear guidance on when breaks should be taken and therefore it was the responsibility of the employer to make informed decisions to protect the wellbeing of staff.
"It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz of harvest, but make sure working hours are monitored closely,” he said.
"There should be a clear policy stating how many hours and days that staff can work before they are required to take a break or have time off.
"Tiredness and fatigue can lead to mistakes and – at a time of year when there are likely to be more vehicle movements and extra people on the payroll to cope with higher workloads – it could have fatal consequences.
"Keeping your workforce fresh and alert is an absolute necessity.
"Unfortunately there’s not a great deal of clarity on when breaks should be taken. It comes down to the discretion of the individual employer.
"However guidelines need to be in place. Keep an eye out for any tell-tale signs of fatigue – are standards of work slipping? Are people making more mistakes? Is there sufficient attention to detail? These are all warning signs on which to make a judgement.”
Next week’s Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched by the Farm Safety Foundation in 2013, asks farmers one question: ’who would fill your boots?’ if something were to happen to them at work.
Each day focuses on a different theme including falls, machinery, livestock, transport and children on farms.