In this guest blog, National Farmers Union Deputy President Stuart Roberts, outlines his thoughts and concerns for managing risks in the workplace, especially when that workplace is the great outdoors and shares his advice for ensuring you are minimising those risks to visitors.
The past year has been challenging for all of us and for many people getting out into the countryside proved to be an invaluable way to help them cope with all the stresses that Covid 19 and the resulting lockdowns brought.
Figures from a Defra survey showed that 40% of adults say they spent more time outside last year and that 85% of adults say that being in nature makes them happy. It’s clear that others love the countryside as much as I do, but it’s important they remember to be safe while they are there.
I can testify that, as a farmer myself, I have seen more people visiting my land and the wider countryside in the past year. It felt great to know that my land management had meant this amount of people could visit. The footpath going through my yard gave me a chance to stop and talk to complete strangers about our beautiful landscape, and I remember one bank holiday weekend where there must have been 2,000 people that used that path!
Millions of visits are made to the countryside every year and the vast majority take place without incident, but sometimes things do go wrong and there have been some devastating incidents where members of the public have come into contact with livestock and been injured or killed.
Having visitors to what is, in effect, our workplace has its responsibilities and we have a duty to safeguard the public who travel through it. I think that every farmer who keeps livestock needs to be proactive in managing the herd and managing the risk – something that can be done very simply. Advice is available in abundance from the HSE and the NFU; NFU members can even get help from the telephone advice service CallFirst.
Risk management does not need to be complicated – it’s something we all do, every day without a second thought when undertaking day-to-day activities, but needs to be upped in the farm workplace. For instance, cattle can be unpredictable and over the past three years investigations by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have found that the majority of livestock incidents were preceded by little or no risk assessments.
I have done many risk assessments in the past.
All it takes is a little common sense and you could be saving a life – whether it’s a stranger, a family member, an employee or your own life.
It doesn’t have to be pages long and can be as simple as a map of your farm showing the fields with footpaths and how contact between livestock and the public is controlled. I urge all livestock farmers to make a start today and better manage risks in the workplace, before it’s too late.’