Spot inspections rise as farm deaths increase again

Sarah VeritySarah Verity
Sarah Verity
Farmers are being urged to put in place effective safety procedures to reduce risk of accidents on farm, as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) continues to reintroduce a greater number of spot inspections across the country.

Figures released in July by HSE reveal that agriculture has a fatality rate some 16 times higher than the average across all industries respectively, per 100,000 workers. The number of farm deaths rose from 27 up to 29 in the same period between 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Fatal injury rates for the self-employed is more than double that for employees, and despite a shift in attitudes, agriculture has averaged 44% of fatal injuries by self-employed workers from 2013/14 to 2017/18.

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In the last year, there has been a steady increase in HSE farm visits and spot inspections, and farmers should be prepared to demonstrate best practice.

“A farm is a working environment, and everyone on-site, including family, workers and visitors can be vulnerable to risk. If a straw bale lands on a third-party visitor to the farm, for example, it will remain the farmer’s responsibility,” says Sarah Verity (pictured), on-farm insurance advisor at Farmers & Mercantile.

“Having in place clear and simple procedures will not only engender a safer working environment, but also demonstrate a commitment to best-practice in the event of an incident or claim,” explains Sarah.

Sarah’s top tips for a safer working environment include,

Ensure health and safety policies and procedures are in place, and ensure all employees are fully conversant with them. Simple risk assessment documents and guidance can be obtained from the HSE website.

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Suitable training plans should be in place for all activities, whether for animal husbandry, simple yard work or ensuring relevant tickets and licences are held for the operation of agricultural machinery. This is particularly relevant during harvest when additional team members may be recruited.

Keep up-to-date records. Even if you are not legally obliged to maintain records, it is best-practice to document all training and ask employees to sign to confirm they have been trained and are conversant with new skill-sets.

When expecting visitors, provide advance guidance. Do not expect visitors to know where they should go, and ensure they are aware they are entering a working farm environment.

Clear signage around the farm should highlight restricted areas, guide visitors to safe reception points and flag-up specific hazards. For example, display straw-stack warning signs to keep members of the public or anyone not involved in bale handling away. Good signage can be ordered simply and easily online with a quick search.

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Farmers & Mercantile is one of the largest independent brokers specialising in agriculture, with access to all of the available insurers in the open market. For advice call the F&M Yorkshire office on 01423 325 354 or visit