The start of 'Farm Safety Week' is a stark reminder that agriculture remains one of the highest risk industries; both in respect of workplace injuries and work-related illness. There were 29 work-related fatalities in agricultural industries between 2015 and 2016. Take this week 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.

Health and safety 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.

A risk assessment is about identifying sensible measures to control the identifiable risks in your workplace. The law does not expect you to be risk free but it does expect you to protect people by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable. Keep it simple and focused on the needs and requirements of your business and most importantly, make sure the measures set out in writing are being put in to practice.

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.

The two main issues leading to the fatalities identified above were transport and falls from height; so in Farm Safety Week, take the opportunity to take a look at how your business manages these risks.


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 this 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.

Working in agriculture can be high risk and the consequences of getting it wrong can be fatal. 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.