Head of Agriculture for HSE, Rick Brunt has extensive experience of health and safety regulation in a range of industries. On Day One of Farm Safety Week, Rick outlines his aspirations for a real change in attitude to farm safety, a reduction in those excessively high numbers of fatal injuries and asks you, the farmer, what are you going to do about it?
I used these words, or something pretty close to them, when talking to an assembled group of farmers and farm workers on a farm in Luton a couple of weeks ago. They had gathered in considerable numbers for a farm safety event, run by farmers for farmers.
Reflecting on the fatal injury report published this morning, the sad fact that the numbers look much as they have done for many years, the tragedy that each death was avoidable by simple, straightforward, low cost means, I wholeheartedly hope my message landed and they are poised to play their part in making things better and being part of a healthy, safe and efficient modern farming industry.
If I saw you that afternoon, this message isn’t for you. You know that you can stay safe by using “Safe Stop”, turning off the engine and putting the hand brake on every time you leave a vehicle. You know that the farm is a workplace not a home and that children should be kept safely out of the workplace. You know that roof work is for professionals –you wouldn’t ask a roofer to drive the combine or milk the cows, nor would you ask the combine driver or herdsman to fix the roof. You know that well designed fixed handling facilities are essential to manage livestock. You know how to protect your health, you know what the risk are on your farm, and you have shown you’re up for dealing with them.
So, if this blog isn’t for you, who is it for? Remember the research I talked about? The stuff that said farmers can be divided into planners, pragmatists, risk takers and the unclear. Then you’ll remember that close to half of farms fall into the risk taker and unclear segments. If you know all of this stuff and you don’t take risks, you’re in the other half, so it must be the farm next door. And if you’re good at getting it right and want to help your industry get better, perhaps you need to go next door and help them be clear on what they should be doing, or why they should avoid the risks.
Over the last year I’ve seen the levels of interest and action in farm health and safety increasing. A renewed commitment and ambitious target set by Farm Safety Partnership members, sessions at NFU conference, supply chain action to promote good standards with their farmers and growers, and the face to face sessions like the afternoon near Luton. The diversity of FSP membership; farmers, insurers, suppliers, dealers, trade bodies, employers and employees and all the others that make up the partnerships, provides a massive potential to reach all farmers and bring about the change you want for your industry.
You ARE on the brink of changing your industry. Be active in the partnerships. Seek out the advice. Carry the messages. Don’t step back. Be bold. Step forward. Make that difference.