The UK farming and agriculture sector is one of the most hazardous, especially whilst lone working. With the highest rate of fatal injuries (per 100,000) from all industrial sectors, farmers and farm workers must ensure that dangers of lone working and health and safety are adequately addressed as a fundamental requirement of their farming operations.
Risks and hazards of lone working in agriculture
In the agricultural sector, there are a range of hazards that not only affect farmers and farm workers, but also family members and children that live on farms.
Farmers and farm workers work with dangerous heavy machinery and vehicles, a range of chemicals, livestock and also regularly work in dangerous environments at height or near pits, dams, power lines or silos.
As a physically demanding job, agricultural workers can experience health problems from the repetitive nature of the work, including injuries relating to loud noises, dust and heavy lifting. Before working on a farm, it is important to conduct regular risk assessments. Click here to access our free risk assessment toolkit with examples to help you get started.
Top safety risks to farmers and farm workers
Injury from moving vehicles
One of the most common, and most fatal risks in agriculture is being struck by a moving vehicle. Figures published in the HSE’s ‘Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2019/20’ report highlight that 21 people were killed as a result of farming during the year, with overturning vehicles or being struck by a moving vehicle causing the most injuries and preventable deaths.
To prevent incidents involving vehicles, farmers should consider:
- Regularly assessing each work location to determine if a traffic control plan is needed
- Ensure that vehicles are driven on areas of land that are level, firm and well-drained to prevent vehicles from tipping over.
- Consider fitting a Rollover Protective Structure (RPS) on your tractor.
- Determine if a backup camera or vehicle sensors are needed.
- Determine if a spotter is required.
- Instruct workers and operators not to use personal mobile phones or headphones that could cause a distraction.
Falls from height
Falls from height are the second highest cause of death in agriculture settings. Each year, at least eight people die from falling from height. Falls can often occur from roofs, lofts, ladders, vehicles, and even bale stacks.
In 2019/2020, the HSE reported that a 53-year-old self-employed farm partner was killed when he fell through a fragile barn roof that he was trying to repair. To reduce the risks of injury and fatalities whilst working from height, farm workers should consider:
- Avoid working at height where you can, and if you must, use equipment that prevents falls or reduces the distance and consequences of a fall. This includes wearing safety harnesses, safety netting or properly raised work platforms erected by experienced workers.
- Take time to climb down from a farm vehicle and use the provided steps and handholds. Wearing well-fitted, slip resistant safety footwear can also reduce falls from vehicles.
- Consider a lone worker safety solution with automatic fall detection and alerting capabilities. Safe Shores Monitoring offers a free 30 day trial on both our Companion App and Chaperone device which feature automatic fall detection and alerting.
Injury from livestock
Working with livestock, particularly cattle, will always involve risks. Strong farm animals can cause injuries that can stop a farmer from working for months and can also cause fatalities. In 2019/2020, HSE reported that a 37-year-old self-employed farmer was trampled to death by his bull – he unfortunately passed away from serious head injuries.
To reduce the risk of injury when handling livestock for you, your employees or visitors such as vets, you should consider:
- Using races, a cattle crush, shedding gates and turnover crates to effectively manage the holding and transport of livestock.
- Training workers to competently handle livestock to reduce injury
Lone working monitoring for agricultural workers
Whilst working on a farm, lone worker monitoring and safety devices are essential to ensure the health and safety of individuals. By adopting a lone working solution for agricultural workers, those in danger will be able to raise an alarm when they need help, with regular welfare checks and GPS location monitoring in place to ensure ongoing safety management.
At Safe Shores, we recognise the challenges that farm workers face. With a lack of digital connectivity in remote areas, farmers may find it difficult to raise an alarm. To combat this, we offer a range of remote monitoring and satellite solutions to ensure that lone worker safety is managed whilst working on farms.
We are pleased to be collaborating with SAOS and SmartRural.coop in the design and implementation of a new effective, resilient farm safety system using LoRaWAN to deliver much needed communication links in rural areas rendered inaccessible to traditional mobile network solutions.
SmartRural’s new LoRaWAN solution connects to our Archangel system, ensuring that all alarms and updates created by farmers are sent to us to aid support and response.
To find out more about SmartRural’s work, click here.
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. For legal advice, you should seek independent advice .