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Farm Safety Week takes place this year from 19 July. NatWest Mentor Health and Safety Consultant Cathy Ricketts shares her insight on how SMEs in the agriculture sector can take steps towards creating a safer workplace.
Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 6 min read
Health and safety is a fundamental requirement of a sustainable farming business. Yet, with the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE’s) latest figures for fatalities in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector increasing in 2020/21, safety is a cause for concern.
With the release of the 2020/21 figures, farmers can expect to see increased activity from the HSE in the coming months, so business owners should ensure they’re well prepared.
An HSE inspection is usually a minimum of two hours (considerably longer for an accident investigation), so allow time for the visit. Remember to listen to what the inspector is telling you – it’s perfectly acceptable to take notes.
Get all your paperwork ready well in advance of the visit. Have a map of your farm with key points marked on it, and if you’ve documented risk assessments, have copies of these to show the inspector. If not, be prepared to explain how you control the risks on your farm. You should also provide evidence of training, particularly with regards to any all-terrain vehicles or telehandlers. And make sure you have Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) reports and maintenance records available.
The farmyard and any workshops should be in a tidy state, so make that call to the scrap merchant if you need to declutter, then carry out checks on machinery and equipment, including:
Remember that the HSE can serve enforcement notices and will charge a fee for intervention where it finds a material breach. Also, be aware it has a legal right to “examine and investigate” so you cannot refuse this request.
One of the most common questions we receive from farmers concerns the issue of public rights of way across their land. With the summer holidays in full swing – and some farms taking advantage of the extension to 56 days for permitted use of land for non-agricultural ventures – it is expected more people will be in the countryside.
Where the public right of way runs through your farmyard, ensure the route is clearly signed and vehicle warning signs are displayed
In England and Wales (there are different rules in Scotland), the farmer is responsible for maintaining the right of way on their land. Here are a few things farmers can do to prevent accidents involving the public from occurring on their farm:
Diversification is a popular and, in many cases, profitable addition to a farming business. Projects range from traditional holiday lets, treetop and glamping accommodation, farm shops, workshop letting, bike scrambling, farm gyms, public events, social farming and children’s nurseries.
As with other areas of the business, it pays to keep on top of what’s required in terms of health and safety to start, remember the people you are inviting on to your premises may know nothing about farming and the potential hazards.
Use the following risk-assessment process:
Additionally, don’t let holidaymakers/tenants wander into your workplace – establish clear boundaries. If you’re holding events or attracting people to your farm, put aside a suitable area for parking – in some cases, you may need to appoint a professional company to manage parking for you.
And, if your diversification business involves food, don’t forget that food safety will be another area of consideration. You should also make contact with your local environmental health team at the earliest opportunity.
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