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Rural insurer launches safety checklist as Covid-19 harvest concerns mount

Leading rural insurer NFU Mutual has launched a checklist to help keep farmers and workers safe through what could be one of the most challenging harvests since the Second World War.

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Rural insurer launches safety checklist as Covid-19 harvest concerns mount

It comes as efforts to implement ’best practice’ have become increasingly difficult for growers, as a result of Covid-19.

 

Managing director of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ian Jewitt warned: “Harvest time can be one of the most dangerous periods of the farming year and safety is therefore critical.

 

“Figures published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 39 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities last year. Overturning vehicles – or being struck by moving vehicles – causing most deaths.”


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Challenge

 

Mr Jewitt highlighted Covid-19 restrictions meant inexperienced staff working on farms for the first time, and in recent dry conditions, had combined to present an ‘even bigger challenge’ to the nation’s farmers.

 

“[This is worrying] especially when we consider the fact that agriculture has the worst rate of worker fatal injury of the main industry sectors, with it being 18 times as high as the average rate across all industries,” he added.

 

With fears also mounting over an increase in children on-farm due to school closures, alongside a spike in the scale of farm fires due to the recent dry weather, Mr Jewitt reinforced the checklist will help farmers ‘plan a safe and smooth harvest’.

Getting ready for harvest: NFU Mutual safety checklist

Before harvest

  • Put in place arrangements to enable social distancing, provision of PPE and regular hand washing to protect against Covid-19.
  • Check your tractors, trailers, combines, balers and other harvest equipment, making sure they are safe, roadworthy and that you are up to date with maintenance schedules.
  • Train your staff, especially new staff, to ensure they are aware of all safety hazards, emergency procedures and company and highway rules, especially in relation to harvest risks.
  • Share detailed field and yard plans with staff and contractors, showing all risks and land features such as location of overhead powerlines, steep gradients, public rights of way, obscured field entrances, ditches etc.
  • Remind staff to follow 'Safe Stop' before leaving cabs, ensuring parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance, and to wear seat belts at all times, whether on highways or in fields and yards.

During harvest

  • Regularly check that everyone complies with Covid-19 safety measures and other safety rules.
  • Carry out daily vehicle/ machinery safety checks, regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots e.g. in combines and balers.
  • Continue to remind staff to always practice 'Safe Stop'.
  • In very dry conditions, keep a bowser filled with water on hand, and be prepared to create a fire break in the event of a crop fire.
  • Remind staff to keep well-hydrated, take sufficient rest breaks and monitor for fatigue, stress and mental ill health symptoms. Look after and check in on lone workers.

In the yard

  • Minimise non-essential visitors or contractors on site where possible and agree how you will manage social distancing for those who need to be there.
  • Instruct drivers to keep to safe speeds in the yard and segregate pedestrians from vehicles where possible.
  • Keep children away from working areas.
  • Regularly clean dust from grain dryers and ensure that staff are fully trained and know what to do if a fire breaks out.
  • Make sure ladders and platforms are in good condition and a safe system of work is in operation for all work at height and other higher risk tasks (for example, confined space entry).
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