Comment: High time to make farming safer

As a Yorkshire farmer I am all too aware of the importance of health and safety within the agricultural industry. Sadly, farming does not have a good record, with 27 fatalities and more than 4,000 accidents last year.

Tom Bayston explains simple steps to better farm safety.

Statistically speaking, farming is one of the most dangerous occupations in Britain. When I hear about an accident in our local farming community I always think about the impact on the family as a whole - a serious accident, never mind a death, can be devastating.

To change our safety record we have to embrace a range of farm safety measures. Simple steps can save lives and this is something every farmer should remember.

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The Safe Stop campaign, for example, launched by the Farm Safety Partnership last year urges people to make sure their handbrakes are in working order on their machinery and that four simple steps are followed every time the machinery is stopped - hand brake on, controls in neutral, engine off, keys out.

Other simple measure such as telling someone what you’re doing and where you’re going, taking a charged mobile phone with you and knowing that a 999 call doesn’t need a signal can also save lives.

I currently sit on the NFU Mutual West Riding Member Forum and it was at one these meetings that I began thinking about how we could highlight farm safety in a practical way. The result is a special Farm Safety Day due to be held in conjunction with NFU Mutual at my premises, Park Lodge Shooting School at West Cowick, East Yorkshire, on Thursday, February 26, 10am-4pm.

We hope that through this event we will be able to raise awareness of health and safety issues and encourage farmers to be more vigilant when working in hazardous situations.

So often, farmers find themselves working alone and for long hours with powerful pieces of equipment or large farm animals. It’s easy to take these potentially dangerous working conditions for granted and that’s what we have to tackle.

A range of businesses will be on hand at the free event to provide guidance and support on how to stay safe on the farm. Farmers will have the chance to talk directly to experts including the NFU, Caesar, North Yorkshire Police, Goole Training, Langley’s Solicitors, Vulcan Inspection Services and NFU Mutual Risk Management Services.

There will be five seminars running throughout the day offering advice on farm safety: identifying common hazards, dangerous machinery, outlining the hidden costs of accidents and the potential consequences if the Health and Safety Executive has cause to investigate an accident.

I believe we all have a responsibility to make British agriculture a safer occupation so I am really pleased to be hosting this event.

I don’t want any of my neighbours and friends to be the next tragic statistic – and I urge everyone involved in the industry to take this seriously whether you live or work on a farm, are an experienced farm worker or young farmer.

To achieve a better safety record we all need to make sure that safer working practices become second nature - so that even when we have to put in long hours, we are less likely to take the risks that can have such devastating consequences. This can only be achieved through awareness raising and ongoing training and education.