In the absence of new liability regulations governing this area of law, it is essential that the awareness of safety sustains beyond one week of the year.
Head of complex injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp Joshua Hughes tells us more...
Farm Safety Week (July 15-19) shone a much-needed spotlight on the issue of health and safety in the farming industry, and it is hoped that this focus is maintained over the longer term.
It comes at a time when two tragic farm incidents involving children have impacted the agricultural community.
First, the death of 15-year-old Iris Goldsmith in a quad bike accident at the Goldsmith’s family farm, and then the death of four-year-old Harry Lee in a collision with an agricultural vehicle at a Lancashire farm.
Although numbers can never do justice to the individuals who have lost their lives and their families, this amounts to 39 people who died on farms this year, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
So what can be done to improve safety for children and especially for external visitors, as was the case with Harry Lee?
The Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) has emphasised that children under the age of 13 are prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine.
But as chairman of the FSP Stuart Roberts has said, it is important to remember that farms are first and foremost a working environment; they are not playgrounds.
Nonetheless it is crucial that farmers, or the occupiers in control of the premises, take proportionate precautionary steps to minimise the risks of injury to visitors upon their land.
Indeed, under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957, there is a duty imposed upon farmers to take care to see lawful visitors will be reasonably safe using the premises for the purposes for which they are invited or permitted to be there.
The legislation could appear onerous at first glance, but it does not mean that farmers have to erect over-sized and colourful warning signs to alert children, or put up electric fences along every right of way to deter them.
Maintaining the character of the countryside is also a relevant factor.
The question here is one of reasonableness. The law does not require eradication of all risks and responsibility for safety is shared by the visitors themselves.
If farmers are actively assessing risks and taking steps to minimise them, they will go a long way to protecting visitors from injury – and themselves from liability.
Although it is a difficult balance to strike, putting in place precautionary steps does save lives.
In the absence of new regulations governing this area of law, it is essential that the awareness of safety sustains beyond one week of the year.