As many of you know, we’re a charity set up by rural insurer NFU Mutual to raise awareness of farm safety and challenge the risk-taking behaviours that give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.
Unfortunately, as this year’s Health and Safety Executive Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing for Great Britain 2020/2021 report highlighted, farm-related incidents don’t just happen to those working in the agricultural industry but, tragically, to those who are enjoying our beautiful countryside for their leisure activities. The sad fact is, since 1st April 2020, five members of the public have suffered fatal injuries on GB farms as a result of coming into contact with cattle.
Given the 18 months we have experienced, a stroll in the countryside has been the break many have relied on. It can work wonders for health; improving fitness, relieving stress, helps sleep and can build self-esteem. The benefits of the countryside can be bountiful… as long as you respect, protect and enjoy it.
While most people who visit the countryside are keen to act responsibly, serious farm related incidents can be due to a lack of understanding of what the farmland is being used for and what your responsibilities are when visiting.
Have you ever stood at the side of a busy road, ready to cross and spotted a bus or lorry approaching at speed and decided it would be wise to wait until the vehicle had passed before crossing?
Well there you have it. You’ve done a risk assessment. No paperwork. No rules and regulations to follow. Just a consideration of what could happen if you stepped into the path of an oncoming vehicle and a decision to wait until it is safe.
You carry out risk assessments every day so why is it such a big chore when going for a stroll with your family or taking your dog for a walk in the countryside?
A field of wheat, oats or barley may look pretty but crops like these are actually someone’s livelihood so help prevent damage by walking around the edge of a field unless there is an existing path across it.
Where you can, avoid fields where there are animals, as your presence may cause them stress and endanger your own safety. There is no point in trying to capture a cute photo with a new born calf for Instagram if it puts your life in danger… and it can.
Research by leading rural insurer NFU Mutual suggests that 88% of people now walk their dog in the countryside. It’s always great to give the dog the freedom of a run in a large field but a dog can cause distress, injury or kill farm animals if not well controlled – as well as endangering you. NFU Mutual’s claims statistics also reveal the cost of dog attacks on farm animals rose by an estimated 50% during the first quarter of 2021 (compared to the same period last year)
While dogs should remain under tight control, if you are ever chased by cows let the lead go and get to safety.
It may also be worthwhile remembering that if your walk leads you in the vicinity of a farm or farmyard, you need to take extra care.
Farms are someone’s place of work and, often, someone’s home. Agricultural vehicles have accounted for 13 of the 39 farm fatalities over the past year so it is vital to remember that farmyards are busy working areas with tractors, telehandlers and agricultural machinery moving about 24/7 and where large lorries and tankers are making deliveries at all hours.
This may appear to be common sense, but unfortunately, as this year has shown, it is something we really need to think about and plan before every single visit to the countryside.
The Countryside Code, prepared by Natural England makes things simple so everyone can have the best chance of enjoying our wonderful rural surroundings and coming home safe.
COUNTRYSIDE CODE TOP TIPS
Walkers – understand that farms and fields are someone’s place of work and, often, someone’s home so
• Park carefully to keep access to gateways and driveways clear
• Leave gates and property as you find them
• Follow paths and don’t venture into field where there are crops growing
• Farmers will do their best to make sure that their animals are used to walkers and may put signs and fencing to keep you away from the animals. Make sure you follow the path and keep your dog on a lead and under effective control.
• Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves
• If your dog starts to bark as you enter the field return the way you came and calm the dog and wait for the herd to settle.
• Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
• If the herd are on or near the path, wait for them to move gently away. • Move quietly and predictably so that they are not alarmed by you.
• Avoid getting between cows and their calves.
• If the herd does react and chase you, report it to the farm or the footpath officer so that they can help keep people safe.
Many people have rediscovered the joys of the countryside during this pandemic and we expect this to continue. While it is fantastic that ramblers and dog-walkers are enjoying the mental and physical benefits of our great outdoors, be aware that farms are not playgrounds or parks and you need to be considerate to the farm and the wildlife that live there.
If you want to learn more, you can find information at: