Today marks the beginning of the annual Farm Safety Week initiative. Unfortunately, the agriculture industry holds the poorest workplace safety record in the UK, Ireland and much of the world.
From being hit by vehicles to animal attacks, farming injurs thousands of people each year – with 29 farming deaths in the UK over 2015/6. Farm Safety Week aims to raise awareness and reduce the number of workplace accidents by providing 5 days of themed practical farm safety advice and guidance.
In support of Farm Safety Week, we will be providing our top tips based around each daily theme.
For a more in depth guide, refer to the HSE’s website and keep up with the conversation using the hashtag #farmsafetyweek
Children on the Farm
1. Provide supervision and training
Children should be supervised while on the farm at all times and be made aware of any safety issues.
Older children working on the farm should be given proper training and only be authorised to carry out work they are fit to do. They must also be allowed breaks throughout the day and work for shorter periods of time than other employees.
2. Prevent access to dangerous areas and height
Children should never be able to access height or dangerous areas of the farm such as open water tanks, wells, slurry tanks and ditches. All of these areas should be securely fenced, locked and inaccessible to children.
3. Keep children away from machinery and vehicles
Machinery and vehicles should also be kept well away from children.
Children under the age of 13 must not drive, operate or ride as a passenger on tractors, ATS’s or other farm machinery.
Older children are allowed to drive and operate vehicles but must receive full training and wear a seatbelt at all times.
See tips on staying safe around machinery and moving vehicles below.
4. Keep children at a safe distance from livestock
Children should never be left unsupervised around livestock and should be kept at a safe distance, on the other side of a fence or gate.
Keep children away from bulls, stallions, rams, stags and female animals with new-born young as well as any animal known to become easily distressed.
See tips on staying safe around livestock below.
5. Keep chemicals and tools properly stored, locked away and out of reach
Chemicals, tools and equipment must be completely inaccessible to children.
6. Have a dedicated safe play area for younger children
In addition to fencing off dangerous areas, you should create a cornered off, dedicated safe area for younger children to play in. The area must be in full view of the dwelling house or adult supervision and be completely free of hazards.
1. Keep vehicles well maintained
Vehicles should be inspected daily before use and any repairs carried out immediately. Some things to look out for include:
- Mirrors are properly fitted and kept clean
- All parts are in good condition and properly fitted
- Tires are in working condition
- Brakes are in full working order
2. Ensure drivers are fit to drive
All drivers should be trained and authorised to drive a vehicle before operating it on their own. You must ensure that all drivers are medically fit to drive, and are able to take breaks to avoid fatigue.
3. Practice Safe Stop procedures
If you are stopping or exiting a vehicle you must follow these safe stop procedures:
- Put the handbrake on
- Make sure the controls are in neutral
- Stop the engine (or turn off power)
- Remove the key (or lock-off the power supply)
4. Ensure site and driving routes are safe
Regular driving sites and routes should be regularly maintained. Routes need to be kept clear and obstructions removed immediately.
Routes should also be well lit and warning and speed signs must be visible, clear and consistent with the Highway Code.
5. Ensure non-drivers’ safety is maintained
The safety of livestock and individuals is just as important as the driver’s. Therefore, vehicle routes should be kept away from populated areas where possible.
Routes should avoid the need to reverse and all vehicles must be fitted with audible reversing alerts.
When a non-driver needs to approach a vehicle, they must first attract the driver’s attention and ensure that they have stopped before moving closer.
6. Wear high visibility clothing
For those working nearby moving vehicles, high visibility clothing is important so that you are as visible to the driver as possible. This may be particularly important when working in the dark and in weather conditions such as fog and rain.
1. Provide staff training
All handlers must be fully trained and competent to handle livestock. Training can be provided by an experience colleague and new staff should be supervised for a period of time following training.
2. Understand animal behaviour and stress triggers
Animals respond well to routine and are easily startled by sudden movement, loud sounds and bright lights. Make sure you are calm and deliberate when working with livestock and approach animals from the front. Never turn your back on cattle and avoid shouting at, beating or using electric goads. Your animals will remember bad experiences.
3. Provide and maintain proper facilities and equipment
Providing restraining and handling equipment is extremely important when handling livestock for routine tasks. When dealing with larger animals, equipment such as halters, bull poles and pig boards should be used.
Animals must also be properly contained and unable to move during treatments. Shedding gates, races and crushes should be used, secured and properly maintained.
If an animal is likely to kick, leg restraints should also be used.
4. Wear personal protective equipment
Work shoes or boots should always be worn when working with livestock to prevent crushing. Non-skid soles can always be useful to prevent slips.
Wearing gloves is also necessary to protect hands from chemicals, faeces or disease from spreading.
You may also want to consider other equipment such as dust masks.
5. Leave a clear exit path
Many injuries are caused by startled animals pinning their handler to a surface. Ensure you have enough space to work in and have a clear exit path if the animal shows sign of distress.
6. Follow strict hygiene procedures
To avoid spreading disease, you must follow strict hygiene procedures when handling livestock and disposing of animal waste. If a disease outbreak occurs, you must report the incident to the proper authorities and strictly follow their instructions.
1. Provide Staff Training
All operators, whether a full time employee or casual or seasonal worker, must be fully trained on how to operate any machinery they are required to use as part of their job.
Relevant training for machines can be given by experienced colleagues or through an external training provider.
You should also ensure that all operators have read and understand any machine manuals and have them on hand at all times for reference.
2. Safeguard your machines
Safeguards should be provided by the supplier and properly fitted to the machine to prevent access to dangerous parts.
Safeguards refer to:
- Two-hand controls
- Light guards
- Pressure sensitive matts etc.
3. Regularly inspect and maintain machines
Thorough inspections of the machine should be carried out on a set, regular basis. Some things you will need to look out for are;
- Mechanical defects
- Blockages and leaks
- Correct fitting of all parts
- Condition of all parts
- Cleanliness of windows and mirrors
Pay particular attention to brakes, wheels, tires, guards and stop devices e.g. emergency stops.
4. Dress appropriately when operating
When operating any type of machinery, ensure clothing is snag free and all laces, hair, jewellery and loose material (even loose threads!) are properly tied or removed.
In some cases, PPE may be necessary such as safety glasses, hearing protection and safety shoes.
5. Stay vigilant and focused
Always be aware of your surroundings when operating machines and ensure you are confident in triggering an emergency stop.
Ensure you are well rested and are taking breaks when needed. Fatigue can be extremely dangerous when operating machinery.
6. Ensure machines are properly shut down, isolated and locked when not in use
Proper shutting down of machinery should be carried out before leaving the drivers seat and before anyone carries out any maintenance or adjustments.
Many serious and fatal accidents have occurred when operators have tried to fix a problem or clear the area around a machine, without properly shutting it down.
If you are exiting the machine or are carrying out any maintenance or adjustments, follow safe stop procedures to prevent accidental injury:
- Put the handbrake on.
- Make sure the controls are in neutral.
- Stop the engine.
- Remove the key (or lock-off the power supply).
Falls from height remains the biggest workplace killer across all industries while slips, trips and falls remains the largest cause of workplace accidents. While it is not practicle to avoid working at height entirely, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of accident.
1. Carry out thorough risk assessments
Risk assessment must always be carried out on a work site and be regularly reassessed.
- Weather conditions
- Ground condition
- Fragile surfaces
- Publics/other workers on site
- Job duration
- Access to site
2. Ensure all staff are trained and safe to work at height
All workers must be certified as skilled, knowledgeable, experienced and physically able before carrying out work at height. Training should be provided to anyone who is not experienced – this can be on the job training.
3. Provide protective equipment and clothing to reduce risk and impact of falls
Safety equipment, clothing and harnesses must be provided to anyone working at height. Appropriate equipment includes:
- Hi-Vis clothing
- Safety shoes/boots
- Harnesses, restraints and fall arrests
- Kneepads and wrist and back supports
- Airbags and safety nets
4. Secure loose equipment and provide helmets to prevent injury from falling objects
Any equipment or loose materials should be secured to prevent anything from falling on the employee carrying out work or anyone else below. Any equipment not in use should be organised and stored in containers. Small tools that are regularly used can be secured to a work belt.
Safety equipment and in particular helmets, should be provided for anyone working on the ground in order to avoid injury if an object does fall.
5. Ensure you use ladders safely and appropriately
Where possible, using ladders to work at height should be avoided. Instead consider secure, structured scaffolding platforms.
If using ladders;
- Do not overload on equipment – only take what is necessary and return to ground level to switch over equipment
- Do not rest ladders on weak surfaces such as plastic gutters
- Only use ladders for light work and for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time.
6. Provide a man down alarm
Those working on farms often work alone or are spread out across a large area of farm land. If someone suffers a slip, trip or fall, they may be too injured to walk and have no way of signalling for help.
It may be useful to provide employees with a man down alarm that will alert someone even when they are unable to do so.