HSE's Safety Warning To Farmers During The Harvest Season
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that in the 10 year-period between 1997/98 to 2006/07 there were 399 fatal accidents involving farm workers and 134 of these fatal incidents occurred during the harvest months of August, September and October.
HSE is urging all farmers to take extra precautions with agricultural machinery during the harvest season.
HSE inspector Alan Plom said, "Clearly the nature of farm work carries more inherent risk than most other occupations - these risks include use of heavy machinery, the use of chemicals, working in poor or dangerous weather conditions and working at heights."
He continued, "When it comes to agricultural machinery our message to the farming community is "Stop it before you unblock it." We want farmers to take action to improve safety during their harvest season."
For a safer harvest season the HSE recommends that workers in the agricultural sector take some simple measures to limit their risk of a serious injury.
- Brakes on tractors are crucial, but recent research suggests about one in eight handbrakes are defective. They are easy to check and generally simple to adjust - do it now before you get too busy with the harvest.
- Ensure that any blocked machine is brought to a complete stop, the handbrake applied and engine shut-off before attempting to clear the blockage.
- Suitable checks must be made to ensure that dangerous parts of the machine (e.g. rotating cutters on harvesters) have come to a complete rest before removing any fixed guards.
- Only trained and competent operators should be employed to operate harvesters and other agricultural machinery, and they should be aware of the actions to take when a blockage occurs.
- Don't jump on or off the harvester while it is moving.
- Don't leave the driving position of a moving or running tractor or harvester.
- Don't park or carry out maintenance when under or near overhead power lines.
- Don't allow children on or near tractors or harvesters.
- Ensure guards are always in place covering dangerous parts of machinery, e.g. chain and sprockets, vee belts and pulley drives on all machines, including augers and graders.
- Never wear loose clothing, remove any dangling jewellery and tie back long hair.
- When produce is packed into boxes or stacked in piles, watch your back when manual handling and always ensure adequate and safe access, particularly when working at height.
- Take a few seconds to think before you act. Many accidents are caused by rushing to get the job done, particularly trying to make up lost time caused by spells of bad weather (as we have experienced recently).
More information on health and safety on the farm is available here.
1. In the 10 year period from 1996/97 to 2006/07 there were 134 deaths during harvest. Not all of the harvest-period deaths were the result of harvest-related activities - some were related to livestock and forestry activities. However, the slight increase in fatalities confirms there is an increased risk to the health and safety of agricultural workers during this time. Factors relating to this increase include the long hours, use of heavy machinery, worker fatigue, inadequate training of staff, inexperience and the dangers of overhead power lines.
2. The HSE is working closely with the industry to help it reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries. HSE produces health and safety guidance for farmers; organise health and safety awareness days; provide information and advice through farm visits, by phone or at agricultural events; monitor the health and safety performance of the industry; and, when necessary, take enforcement action against employers who endanger lives.