Contrary to the popular image of fresh air and peaceful surroundings, a farm is not a hazard-free work setting. Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and too many die in farming accidents. In fact, despite the promising news that there is some behavioural change occurring in the industry, agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.
Farming carries an above-average risk of falling accidents. Farming, forestry and horticulture employ about 1% of the national workforce but the risk of falling from heights or being struck by a falling object account for nearly 30% of all farming fatalities, which only demonstrates that ‘Falls’ must remain high on the list of farming risks to be managed.
Transporting and stacking large hay bales has, over recent years, resulted in numerous injuries to and deaths of some operators of the machinery or people near the scene of operations.
According to Stephanie Berkeley from the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind Farm Safety Week: “Any fall from height can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming. Most accidents of this type happen either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. According to Voice of the Farm research carried out this year half of all farmers claim to take risks. I am sure many believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take risks in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough. But as Jack Fisher knows, it rarely is.”
Jack Fisher, a young farmer from Norwich and former student at Easton & Otley College lost his father Peter on 11th February this year when the 54 year old suffered a tragic accident while he was unstrapping a load of straw on his lorry. A stack of four Heston bales collapsed off the side of the lorry while Peter was rolling up a strap beside them. He was crushed by the impact and, unfortunately, died at the scene.
Peter’s tragic accident is a reminder to us all no matter how experienced you are farming can be very dangerous but as Jack say: “we must stick together as a family and support each other when things get though”.
“Dad was a very experienced and heavily qualified driver who had been doing this job for many years” says Jack, who can barely bring himself to talk about his father in the past tense.
“Unless you’ve lost someone close, it’s impossible to describe how this feels.”
“Mum, Gene, Ross and I are just taking one day at a time and I think it’ll take a while before the trauma of the accident goes. We were devastated to lose Dad in such a freak accident but that’s what it was – an accident and, this Farm Safety Week, we have agreed to share our story to highlight the impact an accident like this can have on the whole family. Friends and family have been so supportive with an attendance of nearly 500 people at his funeral and have helped raised just over £2,600 for the Farm Safety Foundation (via funeral donations) to help them continue to deliver practical training for the next generation of farmers and hopefully change this poor safety record we have in farming. As a family, we have to carry on and hope that someone reading this will stop and think twice before taking a risk. That would be the best legacy for Dad.”
“It is human nature to think ‘it won’t happen to me,’ but unfortunately it can, especially if we continue to take risks, whether major or minor.” 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 families like the Fisher family about their experiences, we can persuade farmers of all ages that this week, and every week, farm safety is a lifestyle, not a slogan.”
For more information on Farm Safety Week Follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter or search using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek