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'Recognise the dangers' - nine ways to improve farm safety

Nearly 10 in every 10,000 workers on UK farms die each year. In his Nuffield report, James Chapman points the way to safer farms.



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Nuffield scholar highlights ways to improve farm safety

A Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust report, How farming safety can be improved, has been published by Warwickshire-based farmer James Chapman.

 

Mr Chapman, who works on a 182ha (450-acre) arable farm, lost his left arm in 2005 after becoming entangled in an unguarded PTO shaft while working on a friend’s farm.

 

Since then he has worked to educate others in the industry about farm safety through Young Farmers and the Health and Safety Executive and was awarded an MBE for services to farming in 2012.

 

In his report, Mr Chapman writes that farming is one of the most dangerous industries in the world. In the UK, 9.7 in every 100,000 workers employed on farms die each year. The next most dangerous UK industry is construction where the number of deaths is around 2.1 per 100,000 workers.

 

He visited USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to try to bring together best practices in the field of accident prevention and discover why farmers are still having farm accidents.

 

Identifying risks

 

Despite many previous farm safety initiatives to raise awareness of the problem, the number of fatalities in agriculture has remained constant over the last decade.

 

Not recognising the dangers on farm is one of the main barriers to a safer industry; farmers need more help to identify the risks on their farm and so enable change to take place, believes Mr Chapman.

 

A multitude of tasks are carried out by farmers but often the correct safe work procedure is unknown. Safety training is rarely offered to them and most will not actively seek it. When training is delivered the duration might be half a day every five years with no continued development, says Mr Chapman.

 

When training is delivered, the content and engagement with farmers will vary depending on the person delivering it, resulting in inconsistent uptake of information. The wrong person delivering the training can be detrimental to changing behaviours, he says.

 

A lack of near-miss or minor injury reporting is preventing the industry from making safety changes before a major accident occurs and a fear of the HSE is preventing some farmers engaging with the regulator in a proactive way, believes Mr Chapman.

 

He says farmers have very different learning styles and this needs to be thought about when designing training.


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Farm safety recommendations

Mr Chapman came up with nine recommendations to improve safety in his Nuffield report. These are:

 

  1. Farmers like to learn from other farmers. Peer-to-peer learning must be encouraged at as many levels as possible including agricultural colleges, universities and HSE-run safety, health, awareness days.
  2. A network of working demonstration farms that focus on safety should be set up to allow other farmers to learn how a farm can be profitable while keeping workers safe.
  3. Agricultural colleges and universities must integrate safety in everything they teach. Instilling a safety culture at a young age will drive a long term change in behaviour of the next generation of farmers.
  4. The use of independent safety audits will help farmers identify risks on their farm without fear of prosecution. This could be carried out by farm assurance inspectors or even other farmers.
  5. Farm safety leaders or ambassadors need to be identified and trained to aid delivery of consistent messaging and create a core of professional farmers whom others will respect and follow their example.
  6. Strong leadership is required from our farming unions to make the sometimes unpopular decisions for the good of the industry.
  7. Better use of technology should be encouraged to help make safety simple and inexpensive while also allowing for near-miss reporting to be collated, enabling correct changes to be made before a major accident occurs.
  8. We must all work hard to dispel the myth that being safe makes us less of a farmer; a change in culture will only occur if we make it socially unacceptable to be unsafe.
  9. We must make safety sexy!
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