The latest farming industry fatality figures, released from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), should serve as a stark reminder to farmers to stay safe this harvest according to Rob Gazely of Ceres Rural.
Figures reveal that there were 34 fatalities on farms in 2020-21, 13 more than were recorded the previous year. This shows that farming is responsible for almost a quarter of the deaths recorded by all workplaces.
“Considering that farming only accounts for 1.2% of the UK workforce, those figures make for grim reading.
“Farming’s fatal injury rate is 26 times higher than the all-industry rate. My concern as we approach a busy time of year is that in the last twelve months the figures have been going the wrong way,” Mr Gazely said.
This time of year is recognised as a period of heightened risk, with long working hours and greater use of casual labour, as well as the operation of machinery and trailers only used for at this time of year. It also increases exposure to noise, vibration and dust which can contribute to fatigue and feeling unwell.
“Given that harvest is just around the corner, now is a good time to review farm health and safety practices, check that staff are correctly trained and ensure that machinery has been maintained,” Mr Gazely said, before stressing that every farm business should be aiming to send employees home safely at the end of each day.
Harvest 2021 also has the underlying risk of farms and estates being impacted by Covid-19, which has the potential to bring businesses to a halt if staff are made to isolate.
“Lockdown has eased and restrictions are lifting but there is still a risk in the background, so make sure that your staff are aware of necessary procedures,” he said.
Trailers pose a risk to the operator and other road users at harvest and Mr Gazely reminded farmers that the maximum combined weight of a tractor and trailer is 31 tonnes, while the maximum laden trailer weight is 18.29 tonnes.
“It is a good practice to carry out a daily visual check of trailers and record your findings – just as drivers of commercial vehicles are legally obliged to do,” he said.
“In addition, trailers should only be operated by trained and authorised personnel. On the road, they must be correctly hitched to the towing vehicle with lights connected and hydraulic or pneumatic brakes in working order.”
Daily and weekly checklists and service schedules are provided by some trailer manufacturers, while the Tilly Organisation unites with these and others in recommending an annual trailer inspection by an authorised mechanic.
“Trailers that have been through the 18-point check have a certificate displayed on the tailgate which demonstrates that it has been kept in efficient working order,” he explained.
Finally, Mr Gazely said: “Look after yourself. Take ample water and food, plus any medication that you may need and do not be afraid to call for support.
“People are the most fundamental asset to any farm or estate, so stay safe this harvest.”