“I want to highlight the impact an accident like this can have on your family and your business. We’re much more conscious of safety all the while on the farm now and it’s made me slow down and think about every process.”
Today marks the start of the fourth annual Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched in 2013 aiming to reduce the number of accidents which continue to give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland. This year’s Farm Safety Week is being supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.
From quad bike accidents to animal attacks, farming kills and injures more people than any other industry in the UK and Ireland – Farm Safety Week (4-8 July) offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for farmers, day three of which will see the announcement of the latest HSE annual workplace fatality statistics for Great Britain 2015/2016. Last year, 33 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded – a rate of 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, which is significantly higher than any other industry sector – 6 times higher than construction (1.62 / 100,000) SOURCE: RIDDOR
“These are not just statistics.” explains Rick Brunt, Head of Agriculture, Waste and Recycling Sector, Health & Safety Executive. “Behind each story is a grieving family, a community in shock, and a farm that needs to continue being farmed no matter what has happened.
“This year, Farm Safety Week is focusing on the power of the positive. We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to make farms safer places to work.”
“We’re encouraging everyone in the industry to see health and safety as an integral part of their business.
“On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people. A farm accident – whether fatal or causing serious trauma – can have awful, potentially lifelong consequences for a business, not to mention family and sadly, deaths or injuries occurring on a farm are preventable more often than not. As someone who looks after Agriculture for HSE, I see the importance of farm safety first hand. Injuries on the farm happen much more often than they should. We need to work together so that farm safety is acknowledged as important and change ensues.”
Even the most safety conscious farmers can experience the effects of a serious injury as we learn from Norfolk farmer Tim Papworth. Tim was carrying out a simple operation – changing a light bulb in a potato store – but one slip had life changing consequences.
Tim fell from a ladder and suffered a serious head injury and had to be taken by air ambulance to the specialist trauma unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, where he spent five weeks in a drug-induced coma.
As with many of these instances, the accident happened during a busy time on Tim’s farm, as potatoes were being moved into a new store at Tunstead. One of the light bulbs had gone and he agreed to change it.
“I can remember getting the bulb from my car and going up the ladder, but that’s as much as I can remember until I woke up at Addenbrooke’s,” Tim explained.
“I couldn’t speak and I was paralysed on the left side of my body. I couldn’t do anything for myself. The only way I could communicate was by writing notes on bits of paper.
“Thanks to the marvellous work of the air ambulance and the team at Addenbrooke’s I knew I was going to survive but I was concerned about how I would function in the future and the effect it would all have on my wife Emma, our children and the family business. How to keep the business running and earn the money to look after my family worried me no end.”
The accident happened five years ago and thankfully Tim has made a full recovery apart from impaired hearing in his left ear.
Tim added, “I want to highlight the impact an accident like this can have on your family and your business. We’re much more conscious of safety all the while on the farm now and it’s made me slow down and think about every process.”
This case reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls. Falls constitute one of the most common farm accidents, accounting for 23 fatal accidents in the last 5 years.
“It is human nature to think ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but unfortunately it can, especially if we continue on with this approach.” says Farm Safety Foundation’s Stephanie Berkeley.
“Taking preventative, proactive measures is one of the best things we can do for our farm and workers. Most preventative practices are common sense. Tragically, most accidents are caused by simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue, and improperly maintained machinery. This week, we hope that by hearing from other farmers about their experiences, we can ask farmers to really think about ‘Who Would Fill Your Boots?’ if something were to happen to them at work, shed some light on the necessity of farm safety and highlight practical ways to make it happen on the farm.”