Safe farms, safe staff and visitors – a guide to legislation

While agriculture employs just 1.5% of the total UK workforce it accounts for almost 20% of all workplace fatalities in Britain.

Aside from the devastating impact on families, friends and co-workers, deaths and injuries cost the industry £200m in fines, lost earnings and remedial work each year.

Yet, according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and safety consultants, most accidents are still caused by unnecessary risk taking and poor planning.

The most common causes of death and injury in UK farming are:

Struck by moving vehicles
Struck by moving objects – such as bales and trees
Falls from height
Suffocation or drowning
Contact with machinery
Injury by an animal
Trapped by something collapsing or overturning
Handling, lifting or carrying
Trips or falls on the same level
Ill health due to exposure to zoonoses (diseases from animals), chemicals, dust, machinery noise and vibration.
To tackle the various issues, a plethora of legislative measures and guidelines has been developed. Strutt & Parker farming department director and health and safety consultant Rob Gazely runs through some of the key health and safety advice.

The overarching pieces of legislation are:

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which places a duty of care on employers to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and anyone else who may be affected by their actions.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 which require all employers and employees who share a workplace to co-operate with each other and co-ordinate their work to ensure everyone complies with the law.
These, along with other laws, relate to the main causes of death and injury and also include staff management obligations.

Staff management
In carrying out on-farm audits Mr Gazely says he encounters a range of attitudes towards health and safety, ranging from “sheer complacency to incredibly engaged and astute”.

Farmers must, by law, encourage a positive approach to health and safety across their units and with their employees, he advises.

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