How Many More Must Die?

BY BEN EAGLE

On the 18th July this year 33-year-old Devon farmer Todd Riggs was killed in a farm accident. He had been trapped under a trailer and despite the efforts of the emergency services Mr Riggs lost his life. Unfortunately this case is far from unique. Agriculture tops the charts when it comes to the rate of people fatally injured as a result of workplace accidents. This is completely unacceptable and things must improve, for the sake of everyone in the industry. How many more must die before farming sorts itself out?

Of course the problem is far from restricted to farming and lots of other sectors, especially construction, have high stats when it comes to workplace fatalities. There is a certain amount of risk in these sorts of jobs, but in an age of health and safety, the figures should be much better than they are. Last year the Health and Safety Executive revealed that 137 people were killed or fatally injured in a workplace accident of some kind and that 27 of these worked in agriculture. Given that less than 1% of the country works in the sector in some way, this figure is disproportionate and needs to improve. One death is too much when it comes to not taking enough care.

Farm Safety Week kicked off on 24th July and was packed with stories of farmers and those working the wider industry who have fallen victim to accidents in the farm environment. By its very nature farming is dangerous. There are powerful big machines, unreliable livestock, and people work in difficult conditions, including from heights. It is vital that everyone remains fully aware of the risks and various dangers around them.

Here are a few actions that could be taken:

  • Make sure you are aware if there are people walking about the yard. If you are driving a piece of machinery you could risk causing an accident.
  • Ideally use high vis jackets around the farm. Get your farm team to wear them.
  • Make sure everyone is properly trained to use all the various bits of equipment and that they are comfortable with how everything works.
  • Follow ‘safe stop’ procedures in vehicles (leave in neutral, put handbrake on and take out the key).
  • Roofs and working from heights can kill. Always use a harness.
  • Wear a helmet when using your quad-bike. You can easily turn it over and cause yourself a head injury.
  • Remember the height of big vehicles such as combines when driving under overhead power lines.
  • Remember height of big vehicles when driving under bridges.
  • Slurry tanks and damp grain stores may contain toxic gases. Make sure they are safe before you enter.
  • Never get off a tractor that is still moving.
  • Livestock will always be unpredictable. Be aware of this, especially if there are children or inexperienced people around you.
  • Ensure all machinery is regularly serviced and kept in good condition.

These are just a few of the actions that could (and should) be taken on farms to keep everyone safe. It’s a very serious matter that we all need to be aware of. Let’s hope the stats soon improve. Be aware.

Ben Eagle is a regular contributor to Country Squire Magazine. He is an environmental and agricultural writer from Essex, blogs at thinkingcountry.com and you can find him on twitter or Instagram @benjy_eagle.

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