“Working together to make farming safer”

AS part of our role within the Wales Farm Safety Partnership the FUW continues to work hard with affiliated organisations to combat the serious Health and Safety challenges on our farms.

Sadly, loss of life due to accidents on farm continue to be reported and, in order to improve the situation and to save lives on our farms, we will continue to provide expert advice and guidance in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive.

Farm safety is above politics and all organisations here in Wales who are signed up to the ‘On Farm Health and Safety Charter for Wales’ are committed to: “Working together to make farming safer”. It is therefore sad that since the end of April we have received 7 fatality notifications from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 7 more families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, whose lives have been forever changed. The total this year so far: 16.

1.
Fatal alert (2020/10) – self- employed farmer was struck by a vehicle whilst working with livestock.

2.
Fatal alert (2020/11) – self- employed farmer was killed when working with cattle and newborn calves.

3

Fatal alert (2020/12) – self- employed person killed when he was struck by part of an excavator.

4

Fatal alert (2020/13) – farm worker killed when his ATV overturned while spraying vegetation.

5

Fatal alert (2020/14) – self- employed farmer crushed between the back of a tractor and a mounted mower.

6.
Fatal alert (2020/15) – self- employed farmer killed when his quad bike overturned.

7.
Fatal alert (2020/16) – self- employed farmer killed by a bull. His son and daughter were also seriously injured.

Life on the farm is busy, stressful at times and the current situation is probably not helping. The kids are still home, we’re worried about people walking across our farm yards and spreading a potentially deadly virus and then there might be a TB test looming, or we need to make a dash on the quad bike to fetch livestock that have escaped. And most of the time we can handle the speed at which things have to be sorted.

Safety can often go to the back of the mind, but what we must remember is that handling cattle always involves a risk of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring.

The risk is increased if the work involves animals that have not been handled frequently, such as those from hills or moorland, sucklers or newly calved cattle. Certain jobs, such as veterinary work or TB testing, may increase the risk further.

Advice from the Health and Safety Executive stresses that “proper handling systems, trained and competent staff, and a rigorous culling policy can help make sure cattle handling can be carried out in relative safety”, whereas attempting to carry out stock tasks on unrestrained cattle or with makeshift equipment is particularly hazardous.

However, contrary to what has previously been claimed by officials who seem never to have been within 100 yards of a cow, it is never possible to fully eliminate the risk of handling cattle.

We must therefore never underestimate the risk, even with good precautions in

place – especially given that we are now carrying out more than 2 million cattle TB tests per year.

Familiarity with individual cattle can lead to complacency, especially when handling bulls, and a number of accidents, some fatal, happen every year because we fail to treat bulls with respect. Let’s not forget that a playful bull can kill you just as easily as an angry one.

Sadly, deaths caused by animals is ranked second in the list of reasons why people suffer fatal injuries on farms, with those killed often being experienced stockmen with decades of experience. Sadly, sometimes it appears the worst possible outcome might have been avoided by a farmer making sure they were accompanied by another when handling stock.

Whichever way you look at it, we have serious Health and Safety challenges on our farms: Over the last twenty years, other industries such as construction and quarrying have greatly improved their safety records, while farming has not, and it is frightening that you are now six times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would on a building site.

So whilst the rest of the world is in crisis for a myriad of reasons, please do your utmost to ensure that there isn’t one on your farm. Especially if it can be avoided. For more information and advice on how to stay safe on farm, please visit the Health and Safety Executive website: www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/

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