Stuart Roberts chairs the England Farm Safety Partnership and, as a farmer himself, Vice-President of the National Farmers’ Union and one of the key figures behind last year’s #LensLeg social media drive, is passionate, committed and driven to make a real change.
“If there’s one thing I want to achieve as Vice President of the NFU, it’s to help drive a change in how we view and approach safety on farm.” He says.
“Farming is an incredibly challenging and incredibly rewarding industry to work in. I have often heard people say that farming isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life, and in many respects this is true. But the fact is that when it comes to safety, we often don’t treat it as an important part of our business structure.
“It’s very telling that the majority of people getting injured or killed on farm are self-employed. I often think that we are so used to looking after other things – our animals, our crops, our families, our employees – that we often forget to look after ourselves. We need to remember that we are running businesses and that we have a responsibility to keep everyone working within that business safe, ourselves included.
“Last year the Farm Safety Partnership set a target to halve farm fatalities by the end of 2023, with the aim of getting to a point where there are no farming fatalities at all.
Now I was under no illusions that this would be easy – after all, it required a complete culture revolution – but I’ve seen how the construction industry has turned their safety record around and I firmly believe we can do the same.
“The FSP launched a campaign in January this year to really make some noise about farming’s attitude towards safety and the need for practical changes in the workplace. So far this year we have specifically focused on how to stay safe in transport and when handling livestock, and are currently making a coordinated effort to promote good practice when it comes to child safety on farm, especially during the summer holidays when children are at home. As we head into autumn, we will be looking at working at height.
“As chairman of the FSP I see so much work going in to reversing our safety record and so I was incredibly saddened that there has been little downward movement in the amount of fatalities on farms.
“Yet there has been an undeniable shift in many farmers’ approach towards health and safety. In the last week of June alone over 600 farmers attended safety workshops across the country, all looking for ways to improve their safety on farm. The conversation is happening. We are becoming more aware of the risks and how to remove them. We are sharing our own experiences. The way we are approaching safety is changing.
“And I have to keep reminding myself – things aren’t going to change overnight.
But that doesn’t mean we can take our foot off the pedal. We are still seeing too many examples of unsafe practices and we need to go further than just conversation. Farmers need to put their words into action and commit to making real changes on their farms.
“Talking is the easy part, now let’s take the next step forward to keep ourselves and those around us safe, and get to a point where the statistics reflect the conversation.”