Agricultural Health and Safety

The agricultural and farming industry result in high rates of accident and injury due to working in this environment. According to the HSE, agriculture has the highest fatality rates of all industries. The total cost in farming injuries equates to £276 million each year. There is also a gross under-reporting of non-fatal injuries, which might make the true figure higher. Accidents and expensive law suits could be avoided if employees are trained in basic health and safety principles. Farmers and farm workers work with potentially dangerous materials, machinery, chemicals, working at heights, in confined spaces and silo pits. The main causes of accidents remains constant and includes falls, accidents involving farm transport, asphyxiation or drowning and being trapped under collapsing materials. It is the duty of the employer to ensure that the buildings are kept in good repair, workshops should have no tripping hazards and there should be good drainage and non-slip floors. General health and safety in all working environments is covered by The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992.

Risk Assessments

A risk assessment would include checking for hazards in the farming environment. Ways of looking out for hazards include walking around the farm, observing how people work,  asking them about their safety concerns, learning from experience and checking out the manufacturers’ instructions for assembling equipment properly. It needs to be then considered who might be harmed, eg casual workers, members of the public, contractors and family, especially children. An assessment should then be done on how an injury might occur, ie injury by a bale or vehicle and long term possible health effects, like breathing in grain dusk. Each hazard must then be examined. The controls for each hazard that is currently in place must be compared with what is needed to comply with the law. If the hazard cannot be eliminated altogether, than a less risky alternative solution must be set in its place. Examples of this would be switching to a less harmful chemical, providing PPE for workers, having secure gates and signposts where there are hazardous areas and animals. All this must be communicated with the workers.

Some of the major areas to be assessed in all agricultural environments are:

Operating farm equipment and using vehicles  Vehicles should be able to move around freely, be well maintained and only operated by trained staff.  Many accidents occur because of moving or overturned vehicles. Farm machinery should only be used for that what it is designed. All machinery must have the “Certificate of Conformity” stamp. This will ensure the farm machine is built to safety standards.

Confined spaces   If it is necessary to work in a confined space like a grain silo, adequate PPE or breathing apparatus must be supplied to the worker. The air must be tested so that it dosn’t contain harmful amounts of gases such as hydrogen sulphide.

Roofs and scaffolding   Old asbestos roofs may be fragile. Platforms and covers must be set on fragile roofs to enable them to hold one’s weight.

Working with animals   Animals should be fenced in as appropriate. Children or members of the public should not have access to dangerous animals. For employees there should be proper handling facilities for life stock eg a race and a crush suitable for the animals to be handled. Animals should only be handled by trained staff that are well aware of the dangers.


Sources:  Tutorcare   Defra   HSE   Guardian

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