In a week where we have acknowledged that farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland, there may be a feeling emerging that this is something we are willing to accept. This could not be further from the truth and, like last year, we feel it is important to throw the spotlight on the army of inspirational individuals and organisations working tirelessly to drive a change in the industry. So, the last day of this year’s Farm Safety Week will acknowledge our Farm Safety Heroes and outline why we feel that the farming industry is becoming a safer place because of them.
In no particular order… our 10 Farm Safety Heroes are:
Matt is an arable farmer and contractor from Hampshire as well as being the NFU National Crops Board chair. Matt has always recognised the importance of staying safe within the industry with particular emphasis on safety when working near Overhead Power Lines. Matt recognises that the risk, when working near OHPLs, is ever present and may be increasing as equipment and machines become bigger.
As part of Matt’s work with SSEN, he has delivered lectures to students at Sparsholt College on the importance of safety around OHPLs and how to implement ways to manage safe working practices.
As well as this work, Matt cares deeply about improving the safety of agricultural machines on roads and has developed stickers for trailers to help other road users manage agricultural traffic. He is also ‘tirelessly’ championing the importance of taking breaks and not getting too tired on the job. Matt ensures his team take regular breaks to ensure they rest properly and look after both their physical and mental health.
Farmstrong Scotland is a new rural wellbeing programme for the farming and crofting sector, sharing peer-to-peer tips and advice. It replicates the New Zealand model, which was set up by rural insurer FMG and the Mental Health Foundation nine years ago.
This truly collaborative initiative is designed to provide the resources and tools that farmers might need to manage their own wellbeing when faced with challenges that are often hard to predict, or control, from prices and the weather, to changing government legislation and market pressures.
Development for Farmstrong Scotland started in 2018, following the successful Doug Avery Tour and, with the support of a small voluntary committee, is been rolled out this year.
Over the last two years, the group has been conducting research, focus groups, liaising with Farmstrong in New Zealand, working on a fundraising and marketing strategy, organising events, building governance procedures, and most recently, hosted the “Live Well, Farm and Croft Well” tour across Scotland.
Neil Patterson and Allan Chambers
Winner of the Arable Section in this year’s Northern Ireland Tidy Farmyard Awards sponsored by NFU Mutual, Neil and Allan of Cottage Farm Downpatrick not only have the most spectacular views of the Mourne Mountains but they beat the competition as a superb example of an arable unit with an exceptional farm layout – well-laid out access points, clear visibility around busy areas and considered health and safety requirements. The judges praised how innovative the team had been with machinery, storage and how they had prioritised the separation of the busy working farm from the adjacent family dwelling.
As many of us know, there’s nothing like a Fatal Notification alert to focus the mind and make you realise what’s really important in life.
For Elizabeth Creed, a safety professional based in Norwich and former chair of the IOSH Rural Industries Group, this came to her in March 2021 after what felt like a few months of endless notifications and led to her harnessing the power of social media and creating Farm Safety Hour and its eponymous hashtag #FarmSafetyHour.
The first #FarmSafetyHour ran on Thursday 22 April 2021 and has been going ever since.
Weekly discussions happen on Twitter every Thursday from 1930 – 2030 BST and cover anything and everything related to safety in farming and agriculture. From P.P.E to mental health it’s all important and Liz and her 677 followers aim to be open, be honest and #cultivatechange to get every farm owner & worker, young & old home safely every single day.
The Bunford Family
Keeping children safe on farms has always been a challenge for farming families worldwide and it is something that has been debated for as long as Farm Safety Week has been running. But, sadly, despite the best efforts of parents to keep their children safe, accidents can occur with tragic unpredictable events and have far-reaching consequences and devastating results.
Our next Farm Safety Heroes are the Bunford family from Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. Rhys, Louise, Gethin and Clemmie shared their very personal story with us last year for Farm Safety Week Tomos’ Story – YellowWellies.org They also teamed up with us, the Welsh Government and Wales Farm Safety Partnership to launch a special calendar competition in Tomos’ memory where children in rural primary schools across Wales were invited to illustrate some key safety messages. Twelve creative entries were chosen to be included in the 2023 Wales Farm Safety Calendar. Over 5,000 of these calendars were printed and distributed to rural primary schools at the start of 2023 and they are hanging up in kitchens across the country as a reminder every day to come home safe.
Back to Northern Ireland and the winner of the Northern Ireland Tidy Farmyard Awards Young Farmer category, James Purcell from Limavady, Co. Londonderry has developed a dairy enterprise to compliment other parts of his mixed unit.
There is good access with a very tidy wider farmyard. James was one of the first in NI to adopt robot milking and continues to employ robotics to support his busy farm which he maintains in excellent condition. This is not a new farm however the mix of older and newer buildings and facilities means that James’ dairy unit demonstrates safe handling facilities with a clear eye to ensuring health and safety is considered within every farming activity.
Brian & Norma Rohan
Brian and Norma Rohan from Shanahoe, County Laois, Ireland founded Embrace FARM in 2014 after Brian lost his father Liam in a tragic farm accident the previous year.
Liam Rohan had been a popular and respected farmer & had represented Ireland many times at the World Ploughing Championships. Unfortunately, while carrying out repair work on machinery, Liam suffered a severe blow to the head resulting in a head trauma and lost his life days later.
Despite experiencing an outpouring of grief and love from the community, friends and family, Brian and Norma were surprised to find that there was little or no emotional or practical support networks available to farm families in similar circumstances.
This led to the creation of Embrace FARM, a support network for farm families who, like Brian and Norma, have lost a loved one or suffered serious injury in a farm-related accident. The organisation obtained charitable status in 2017 and is the first of its kind for the farming community in Ireland. For the past 10 years a cross-border Remembrance Service is held in memoriam to the lives lost in farm accidents and family members or close acquaintances of the deceased can send the name of their loved one to be remembered.
James runs an agricultural contracting business in the Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire borders and on 6th August 1998 James had a life-changing experience on farm. In a devastating turn of events, James became entangled in the haulm rollers of a potato harvester which dragged in his left arm to the shoulder. It took two-and-a-half-hours for emergency services to free him from the machine and air-lift home – still conscious – to hospital where he had his arm amputated.
With the gift of hindsight, James can acknowledge that the machine should have been switched off before he even approached it. It has taken James years to feel comfortable sharing the details of his accident but, with the support of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC) of which he is now Chairman, he is now embracing the challenge of sharing his story in the hope of preventing this type of devastating accident happening to others.
His honesty and bravery in admitting his error is truly inspirational and, however difficult for him, he is using his voice to make certain that other lives can be saved. In his words, he was ‘lucky’ that day but he is adamant that those working on farms should never put themselves at risk.
Jonathan & Kyle Price
Mourne View Farm is a third-generation beef farm on the western edge of Lisburn, Co. Antrim. It is run by brothers Jonathan and Kyle Price and was judged in the NI Tidy Farmyard Awards 2023 to be an excellent example of a livestock farm on the edge of a city with properties on both sides of a busy road. The farm is divided between Glenavy Road and Ballantine, which are two miles apart.
The Price family has always been committed to producing beef of the highest quality and the brothers recently installed a new purpose-built handling facility as part of a major investment programme. Because the brothers are working all year round with heavy cattle, they have two key management requirements – the availability of safe handling facilities and the provision of optimal comfort for the cattle while they are housed. The judges were particularly impressed by the clear signage, security and the cleanliness of the yard and storage areas as well as the cattle handling facility. Every single aspect of the farm considered animal welfare and human welfare – especially the safety of those working or visiting their busy yard.
Alun Elidyr Edwards and Glyn Davies
We return to Wales for the last of our Farm Safety Heroes and we finish with a truly Dynamic Duo – Alun and Glyn were appointed to the role of Farm Safety Ambassadors in 2019.
Their work includes the promotion of the work of the Wales Farm Safety Partnership – the collaboration of key agricultural stakeholder organisations working together to help drive down the unacceptable number of serious accidents and deaths that occur on farms across Wales each year.
Both Alun and Glyn have extensive farming experience and proactively share their knowledge to farm businesses with the sole purpose of making Welsh farms safer and reducing the risk of accidents. Since taking on this latest mission, they have proved themselves inspirational, dedicated and true farm safety heroes.