More needs to be done to cut farm fatalities

A Northumberland farmer says more needs to be done to tackle the number of agricultural fatalities which occur every year

Richard Baynes
Richard Baynes

A Northumberland farmer says more needs to be done to tackle the number of agricultural fatalities which occur every year.

The latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have been published to coincide with Farm Safety Week – designed to highlight the risks farmers face every day.

Although the number of workers killed in Britain last year has fallen, data from the (HSE) reveals 148 workers were still fatally injured between April 2012 and March 2013. Of these, there were 29 deaths in the agricultural sector. This compares with 35 deaths recorded in 2011-12.

Despite farming organisations including the NFU working hard to improve the UK’s farm safety record, and the trend heading in the right direction, more needs to be done to ensure fatalities are reduced further according to Richard Baynes, from Marley Cote Walls Farm, near Hexham.

He said: “Farmers and their staff are now more conscious of the dangers on farms and this has been helped through better awareness campaigns and education.

“Over the past 50 years, farms have become more mechanised and machines have got bigger and technically complex.

“Most machines have safety features included, but there is still the human element involved and that will always presents a danger. Power-Take-Off (PTO) and tractor engines should always be disengaged.

The Baynes family run an award-winning pedigree 120 cow Ayrshire and Shorthorn herd and working with livestock presents dangers, especially when working with large animals said Baynes.

Baynes, his brother Paul and father, David, diversified their dairy business and started Northumberland Pedigree Milk in 2005.

The business supplies milk and cream to more than 100 farm shops in the region and like many farms that have diversified and employ staff, are more conscious of health and safety.

The farm also operates a bottling plant and has four employees as well as two delivery drivers.

According to Richard, not all on-farm dangers are apparent.

“One of the biggest dangers on some farms is the build-up of dangerous gases in slurry stores and around slurry handling systems. Every year, farmers and staff are endangered by working in confined environments and this presents huge risks. A lot of farmers and their staff work in isolation and this presents an element of danger in the event of an accident occurring.

“The introduction of mobile phones has saved lives on farms however, in isolated farming areas such as the uplands and hill ground, farmers do not always get a signal. However, one of the biggest dangers on a daily basis in any work environment, farm or factory, is complacency,” he said.

NFU regulatory affairs adviser Benjamin Ellis, said: “It is sad that agriculture has retained the highest fatal accident rate for a number of years now. But we are actively working hard to try to improve the safety record of the industry.

“The Farm Safety Partnership is leading the way in raising awareness with each organisation that is represented dedicated to raising safety standards.

“The NFU meets with our members regularly to discuss the importance of on-farm safety.”

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