Lifelong learning can cut accidents and save lives

Farmers should resist the temptation to economise on training

Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous ways to make a living. It accounts for abut one in five work-related deaths every year, even though only 1.5% of the working population is employed in the sector.  It’s a shocking statistic – and desperately sad for all the families left to grieve.

I see the stories the behind the bare statistics – as a farmer’s daughter from East Yorkshire and as Lantra’s representative on the Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee for the Health and Safety Executive.

This summer’s HSE figures were accompanied by short summaries of each accident. It’s sobering reading. People die for such stupid reasons.

We cannot know if training would have saved any one life. But take the example of quad bikes or ATVs. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 says employers should provide adequate training to riders by law. And yet, recent HSE farm visits in Scotland showed almost two-thirds (62%) were not – of the 36 improvement notices issue 25 were for training, 10 for a lack of a helmet.

Read this HSE report: “A 17-year-old boy was killed when his quad bike collided with a car. He was riding the bike and heading back to the farm after checking livestock…he was not wearing a helmet…”.

Contrast that to this report in July’s Farmers Weekly: “Farmerworker escapes electrocution and tractor fire”. The driver brought an 11,000 volt electricity pole down on his cab. “A spokesperson for Bedingham Hall Farm said all their drives hand been taught an emergency action plan, which was to stay in the cab and call for help.” If he’d stepped down from the cab before the power was switched off he’d have been electrocuted. Training saved his life.

Institute of Fiscal Studies research shows every pound spent on training returns between three and six pounds, and businesses that don’t train their staff are 2.5 times more likely to fail.

Training needn’t be expensive or time-consuming. Funding is often available and courses can fit around you. In many cases trainers will visit to teach things like risk assessment and risk management. Farming is hard physical work, often in dangerous environments and with heavy equipment – but so is construction and its fatality figures are falling.

We work in smaller units – micro-businesses and one-man bands – we don’t have HSE officers to pull us up all the time. Is it possible that we, as an industry, have become blasé? Are we too macho to think about health and safety?

The NFU’s Farming Safety Summit initiative has Lantra’s full support.  The HSE’s Make the Promise, Come Home Safe campaign is excellent – and often offers free Health and Safety awareness days.

Institute of Fiscal Studies research shows every pound spent on training returns between three and six pounds, and businesses that don’t train their staff are 2.5 times more likely to fail.

So if you think training is expensive, try ignorance…on second thoughts, please don’t.

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