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HSE Launches New Farm Safety Initiative

The issue of health and safety on Britain’s farms, particularly with regards to building maintenance, is the focus of a new inspection initiative by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

As part of the initiative, HSE will be visiting farms across the country to ensure risks during building maintenance, such as falling from a roof or ladder, are being controlled and measures are in place to protect farmers, their workers and contractors.

Farming Accident Statistics

It highlights the risks that carrying out building maintenance and repair on farms can pose to workers, including falls from height and exposure to dangerous asbestos fibres. 

Unfortunately, these risks are all too often inadequately managed, leading to farm workers suffering injuries that can be life changing, and sometimes even fatal. The latest statistics from the HSE show that in 2016/17 there were 27 deaths and 13,000 non-fatal injuries to workers in Great Britain’s agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors. Many of those who lost their lives were over the age of 65. 

Overall, agriculture has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, around 18 times higher than the All Industry rate.

Falls From Height and Asbestos Exposure

Falls from height are apparently the second highest cause of death on British farms, causing at least eight deaths a year. Transport related incidents are the number one cause of fatalities. Those who survive falls from height suffer broken bones and other serious injuries that can have life changing consequences. Falls often happen from roofs, lofts, ladders, vehicles, bale stacks, and unsuitable access equipment, such as buckets or potato boxes.

Breathing in asbestos fibres is a well-known risk in the construction injury, but it is also a serious risk for workers carrying out building maintenance on farms. It’s dangerous to drill or cut and everyone working on the farm needs to know where it is and how to avoid breathing in the harmful fibres. 

Managing the Risk

Throughout the inspection initiative, inspectors will be checking on a number of key factors to ensure that the risk of falling from height is being controlled during building maintenance, including:

  • whether work at height can be avoided, 
  • if the right equipment is being used and is in the appropriate condition, 
  • if a specialist contractor has been used for high-risk tasks, 
  • if there are signs to warn people of fragile roofs,
  • and whether the work is being carried out by workers with the right training and skills.

They will also be assessing how exposure to deadly asbestos is being prevented including; 

  • whether there is an up to date plan showing where asbestos is present on a farm, 
  • whether asbestos is labelled or marked, that workers and contractors are aware of where the asbestos is located,
  • and how the removal of asbestos is planned and organised to ensure a safe method of disposal.

“Across the country we know that plenty of farmers routinely use the right kit and do building maintenance and repair safely,” commented Head of HSE’s Agriculture Sector Rick Brunt. “Despite this, falls from height are still one of the main causes of death and injury on Britain’s farms, and each year too many farmers are working with asbestos and breathing in dangerous fibres.”

“This inspection initiative is about making sure that farmers and workers doing building maintenance and repair stay safe and go home healthy from their work,” he added.

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For expert legal advice on claiming compensation following a farming accident then contact our specialist personal injury lawyers today.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

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