by Alun Edwards, Farm Safety Partnership Ambassador
How many of you know someone who has suffered an accident on the farm? I would hazard a guess by saying everyone, and many have lost a relative or friend. It happens despite all the training courses available, often cheap or free, and the constant efforts to raise awareness of the dangers of an agricultural career.
So what next? How can we improve the situation where agriculture is recognised as the most dangerous industry in Britain?
One thing's for sure, the future will include more records. You will need a risk assessment before starting work, and technology to record this. When I go out filming for Ffermio, it’s compulsory on a daily basis. It's a simple template, but it does need to be updated from time to time by attending a course, and in agriculture there is a real need for better communication and sympathy from the providers in this context.
Contractors will need a record of a risk assessment before offering you a service, through discussion and possibly a recce visit. An extra cost I hear you say. If you can't afford it, can you afford the result of an accident?
Insurers will increase the use of the carrot and the stick; asking for evidence of a training qualification before insuring a tractor, quad and bull, asking for proof of purchasing a helmet, and of course offering a discount for reducing the risk as a result.
F.A.W.L. will require similar evidence before accrediting your business, perhaps in the form of upskilling by gaining a Farming Connect skills record.
Regulators will look seriously at M.O.T. for tractors. It's unbelievable any work carried out on the road doesn't already need one, and in fairness I know many farmers who go through the process voluntarily for peace of mind.
There will be a growing conversation about safety at work for "public goods". If the Government impose more slurry stores on us, what are the risks of increasing hydrogen sulphide, methane and carbon dioxide in the workplace, not to mention the unknown air pollution?
The concept of a license to farm has been talked about for years, and the industry's flawed health and safety record means this could quickly become a reality. As farmers we have a responsibility to improve our working conditions. There is a great deal of change happening over the next few years and we must respond positively, or it will be enforced upon us. We also need to be aware of our wider image by displaying good practice on social media.
To conclude on a personal note, despite my appointment as an ambassador for the Farm Safety Partnership, most of the calls I receive relate to poor mental health among farmers. It’s an epidemic within the industry, and again, we have to respond; there are many requirements, but we are not unique in that regard.
Thank you for your attention and stay safe.