Falls are second highest cause of farm accidents

editorial image

TODAY marks the start of the third annual Farm Safety Week, an initiative launched to cut the toll of accidents which give agriculture the poorest record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland.

This year’s Farm Safety Week is being supported by a greater number of organisations than ever including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.

From falls and transport to child safety – Farm Safety Week offers five days of themed practical advice and guidance for Scottish farmers and comes just after the HSE released the annual workplace fatality statistics for Great Britain in 2014/15.

In 2014/15, 33 fatal injuries to agricultural workers were recorded – a rate 9.12 deaths per 100,000 workers, the same as the average of 33 deaths in the past five years and, unfortunately, an increase from the 27 deaths recorded in 2013/14.

According to Scott Walker, Chief Executive of NFU Scotland and a member of the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland: “While our farmers are among the best in the world, farming continues to have one of the poorest records of any occupation in the UK and Ireland and while all farm accidents are shocking and dreadfully sad, the saddest thing is that they can often be prevented.

“A fall can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming. Most falls from height accidents occur 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.

“Often people about to undertake a job believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take a risk in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment, Richard Lochhead added his support for the joint initiative saying: “Farm Safety Week is much-needed to help raise awareness of safety issues on Scotland’s farms.

“There are four causes that account for over 70 per cent of work-related deaths on Scotland’s farms - falls from height is one of them, along with transport, equipment and cattle handling.

“I hope this will be a life-saving initiative to tackle the high numbers of accidents and fatalities in the agriculture industry, which is the highest in any working environment across these islands.”

Following a near fatal fall from a ladder on his farm, Aberdeenshire farmer Andrew Moir, spent eight days in hospital followed by a full year of rehabilitation.

As Andrew now realises, this accident was entirely preventable. He explained: “The accident came as a shock not only to me but to those who know me and the emphasis I place on safe working practice.

“The sorry tale began in a routine manner: the grain store was now empty and the cleaning process was a necessary chore.

“Power points are by necessity above the “grain line” which means something like five metres from a float polished concrete floor and I needed to plug the industrial hoover to one of these.

“Inexplicably I reached for the extendable ladder and placed it at quite a tight angle and power flex in one hand started my ascent. As I reached the top my brain suddenly kicked into gear, have I secured the ladder at the bottom? But it was too late, in a split second I was travelling at speed, with the ladder, to a very hard landing.

“Fortunately I did not lose consciousness. After a nasty accident with a cow before, I knew that I only had a few minutes before shock would set in and I could be in real trouble as I was working alone. I was able to get my mobile phone and contact my son Ian.

“In the few minutes Ian took to find me I realised I couldn’t stand up and the extent of my injuries - I was lucky to be alive.”

This case reinforces that fact that farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls. Working at height is an ever-present danger on farms.

Scott Walker added: “Working at height is a frequent danger on farms. A fall is one of the most common causes of death and serious injury, especially among older farmers who are less flexible. However farmers and farm workers of any age run the risk of injury or death from falls from height. It is vital that the farming community take the time to think about what they are doing and what might go wrong. Don’t learn safety by accident!” #FarmSafetyWeek