Despite only accounting for 1.5% of the working population, the agricultural sector has 20% of all work place fatalities, with the statistics for those suffering a serious injury in the sector painting a similar picture. The Health and Safety Executive alongside partner agencies have categorised the statistics into five broad categories as causes of death or serious injury. These are; Falls, Animals, Transport, Equipment and Fire. Whilst all are covered by the general health and safety legislation namely the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, some are subject to additional regulation and guidance which it is important to be aware of to minimise the chances of injury or a fatality occurring on your farm.
Falls – Before carrying out any activities at height it is worth considering the Working at Height Regulations 2005 which provides that all activities at height are to be properly planned, carried out by those competent to do so and with suffice measures taken to prevent accidents. A recent prosecution which resulted in a five figure fine for the employer highlights how these work. The case involved an employee in a potato box attached to a telehandler. The employee was raised up in the box to fix some lighting, not an unusual task for a farm worker. However, the employee was not secured into the box or to the telehandler. Whilst leaning over the edge of the box the employee fell out, falling a significant distance which resulted in severe and permanent disfigurement.
Animals – Animals were the biggest cause of death and injuries last year. One of the biggest factors in prosecutions was the absence of appropriate training given in handling cattle and a lack of proper equipment such as a good quality trap and crush.
However, not all injuries or fatalities and injuries caused by animals have been those working directly with them. With a right to roam in Scotland there have been a number of incidents where those exercising this right have found themselves on the receiving end of an attack by an animal. In order to minimise the risk of breaching your duty o care to those who come on to your land there are a number of steps to be taken. Bulls should never be kept in a field where there is a designated public footpath and cows in calf or cows with calves should be if possible kept in fields separate from footpaths. Signs should also be visible warning of the presence of livestock and any cattle displaying signs of aggressive behaviour should be removed from fields with footpaths.
Transport/Equipment – Transport and Equipment were the second biggest cause of injury and fatalities last year with investigations finding the main cause to be lack of investment or appropriate training in using them. In one case an employee was killed when he was crushed by the back actor of a digger, the investigation later revealed that the digger was poorly maintained and not in a state of good repair.
Fire – Fires on farms have been a contributor to both death and injuries, however they also contribute to major financial hardship for the business. The Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 places a duty on an employer to carry out a risk assessment to protect employees from the risk fire poses. The legislation also puts a duty on an employer to take preventative action where risks have been identified. This can be achieved through the provision of firefighting equipment, considering if where you store flammable materials or flammable substances is the most appropriate place or if there is somewhere else where there is less risk of ignition and a fire occurring.
While the five factors above are the main causes of fatalities and injuries in agricultural settings, it is by no means an exhaustive list. The key message as the evidence shows is to pause before undertaking an activity and consider the risks posed and how you can reduce them. The legislation and guidance on the area on health and safety is by no means short and where you have a doubt about your farms should seek professional guidance to ensure you are not about to act in a way which puts you and your business at risk.
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