With the HSE announcing that farms will come under closer scrutiny in the latest programme of inspections, being compliant with health and safety is more important than ever. Agriculture has the poorest record of any industry sector in Britain with 33 fatalities in the year 2017-2018.

With that in mind now is a good time to have a look at health and safety in your business and remember: it's not about mountains of paper, it's about what's happening in reality.

Good health and safety management is a fundamental requirement for any farming business and should be regarded as an essential part of farm business management. To ensure, as far as possible, that the organisation is compliant, risk assessments should be carried out for all the real risks related to your farm. Have a plan to manage those risks to protect people from harm, or the risk of harm, and carry out regular inspections/audits.

The introduction of new sentencing guidelines in February 2016 means that an offending organisation can now expect to receive a fine in the hundreds of thousands of pounds as opposed to tens of thousands. Protecting employees and non-employees alike is a serious requirement and should not be taken lightly. Getting it wrong can have fatal consequences, not just for those affected but also for the future of your business.

Inspectors will be ensuring risks are being controlled in the following areas:*

Vehicles and machinery

The majority of farm vehicle fatalities occur as a result of overturns, when working on slopes, or collisions with pedestrians. To ensure that you manage and reduce the risks involved consider the following: safe stop, safe vehicle, safe driver and safe site. Ensure that power to vehicles is turned off (safe stop), that vehicles are suitable for the work to be performed (safe vehicle), ensure your drivers are properly trained and competent to undertake the work (safe driver) and ensure that traffic routes are maintained and well-lit with proper segregation between vehicles and pedestrians (safe site).

Falls from height

Falls are the second highest cause of deaths in agriculture with at least eight people dying each year. Most incidents can be avoided if risks are identified and managed; always plan the work in advance and make sure everyone knows the precautions to be followed. Work on fragile roofs is very dangerous and is best avoided if possible; instruct a competent contractor to undertake this work and make sure there is adequate monitoring and supervision.

Many reported incidents occur when loading bales onto a trailer so, particularly in the harvest season, always ensure that trailer floors are in good condition, loads are built to bind themselves, stackers keep away from the edges and full loads are secured before leaving the field. Stacking is a skill so ensure stackers are trained, competent people and inspect stacks regularly.


Children should always be supervised to make sure they are kept out of the workplace. If an unsupervised child appears, stop work immediately and take the child somewhere safe. Ensure that children only watch farm work if the task is not inherently dangerous and the person supervising the child is not the same person undertaking the work.

Ensure that machinery for example harvesters, spreaders, adult-sized ATVs and other self-propelled machines are only operated by people over 16.


Ensure that you have in place good handling facilities and that workers are fit, well and physically capable of undertaking the work. Do not enter enclosures unless appropriate safeguards are in place, for example the animal has been restrained or segregated.

Where possible select fields without public rights of way for bulls or cattle that have calves. Where this isn’t possible ensure there is adequate signage alerting people and separate animals from the path. Working in agriculture is high risk but having in place sensible measures allows for that risk to be managed. The HSE's message is clear: pay closer attention to how you manage workplace risk or face serious penalties!

Be proactive in your health and safety management and follow the Birketts safety mantra of:

  • say what you do
  • do what you say
  • have the paperwork to prove it.