Putting farm safety in the driving seat

Machinery and transport is Tuesday's farm safety focus

Today’s Farm Safety Week focus is machinery and transport, with poorly used or faulty vehicles and machinery being a major cause of death and injury on farms.

Farmers come into contact with a host of machinery daily – combines, choppers and hay balers which bring their own attendant dangers. Hands, hair and clothing can be caught by unguarded PTO shafts or other unguarded moving parts such as pulleys and belts. People can be injured by front-end loaders, falling from a moving tractor or being struck by its wheels. Death’s on UK & Irish farms are much higher than in other industries, so Ednie Farms in Peterhead has taken measures to try and reduce this.

In figures revealed by HSE this week, the most common cause of fatality on farms continues to involve vehicles overturning or by being struck by a vehicle.

Ednie Farms

Ednie Farms, an extensive farming enterprise consisting of livestock, arable renewables and forestry in Peterhead is run by husband and wife team Peter Robertson and Dr Elaine Booth.

Last year, Peter read about the safety statistics for the industry, with one in particular standing out, and decided to take action. He explained: “I was looking at the safety statistics for this industry and I was shocked to see that 37 per cent of accidents on Scotland’s farms were caused by people being hurt by vehicles or machinery. I know in this area of at least two incidents recently where family members have been seriously injured by vehicles.

“I decided that to reduce the risk of that happening on our farms we needed to take action, and we put in place a hi-vis policy, where anyone, no matter their age or purpose, who comes onto the farm must wear a hi-vis jacket or hi-vis boiler suit.

“We’ve invested in those for our employees and family, and when we have schoolchildren on the farm we ensure every single one of them wears one. This policy is widespread in nearly every other manual labour industry, such as the buildings and construction sector, so why should agriculture be any different?

“We often work in challenging conditions – late into the night, in dark sheds, or at a pace to try and get jobs finished” Peter Robertson

“We often work in challenging conditions – late into the night, in dark sheds, or at a pace to try and get jobs finished, and any small measures our industry can take to make their farms and crofts safer, is a huge step to reducing the accident and death toll that our industry has such a bad record of.

Elaine added: “We spoke with our employees and family at the time and talked through the reasons for implementing this policy, and they were fully supportive. And it has proved effective. When I went to one of our forestry sites recently, the contractor admitted that he had seen me far in the distance because I was wearing hi-vis, and not just when I was up closer to the machinery. He was aware I was nearby and was able to easily keep an eye on where I was as he worked and stop as he saw me approaching.”

‘One death is too many’

The team agree that it has made workers across the whole business much more aware of those working around them, making the farm a safer place to live and work.

“You can get hi-vis for so little these days” says Peter. “It really is a very simple, cost effective, but yet highly useful way of making our farms and working environment safer and I certainly think others should be considering implementing this policy on their farms.”

According to Martin Malone from Farm Safety Partnership Scotland: “Machinery and transport continue to be the main causes of life changing and life ending injuries on farms.

“In fact 40 per cent of all farm workers who have lost their lives in agriculture over the past decade were workplace machinery-transport related. Whilst this year we have seen an improvement in the numbers of farmers losing their lives as a result of machinery and transport, the fact is that one death is one too many.

“Everybody in farming knows somebody who has been injured or killed in an accident. The team at Ednie Farms are absolutely right – reminding farmers that farm safety is a lifestyle, not a slogan seems like the right thing to do this week, given the culture of risk raking in the industry. One day your luck could run out.

Join in the conversation – use #FarmSafetyWeek on social media.

Farmland Magazine

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