Working in agriculture can be a hazardous job. Statistics released by the government show that agriculture contributes 1.8% of the workforce in the UK, but accounts for around 19% of fatal injuries!
Agriculture is crucially important in the UK, feeding the nation and greatly contributing to the economy. In 2015, agriculture contributed around £24 billion in revenues to the UK economy.
British farms provide the UK with 64% of the food eaten here, and this number is increasing year upon year!
Additionally, the agricultural industry is a pillar stone for the biggest manufacturing sector in the country – The food and drink sector.
The food and drink sector contributes a huge 20% of all the UK’s manufacturing, with a turnover of over £105 billion.
With this in mind, it’s obvious why looking after employees’ health and safety in the agriculture industry is so important.
This industry contributes so much to the UK economy, the people working in this industry deserve to be safe while working.
What does the HSE say?
HSE (health and safety executive) states that over the last ten years, almost one person every week has died as a result of the agricultural sector.
That is only fatal incidents, many more are seriously injured as a direct result of agricultural work!
Many employers and employees understand that having good workplace health and safety can reduce injuries, time off work and increase profit!
Over £190 million is lost every year in the agriculture industry, with around two thirds due to reportable injuries!
Surveys carried out by HSE suggest that only 16% of injuries are reported in the agriculture sector. This could mean over 10,000 injuries go unreported every year, which comes at the cost of both employer and employee.
HSE guidelines state that workplace accidents and injuries should be reported under Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
Any accident resulting in a fatal injury, major injury or incident that results in more than 3 days off work should be reported using RIDDOR.
Many agricultural workers are required to work on their own at some point or another – This is one of the main reasons why workplace health and safety is so important in this industry!
When employees are lone-working, if any issue occurs there will be nobody close by to help. This may be why agricultural work is some of the most dangerous.
What Are the Main Health and Safety Issues in Agriculture?
Manual Handling (Including Livestock)
Those who work in the agriculture industry will know that lifting, lowering, filling, emptying, or carrying loads can result in serious injury.
Many agricultural workers are affected by ligament and muscle strains and injuries due to manual handling. For example, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) – repetitive strain disorders, joint disorders and chronic back pain.
Most of the heaviest loads are now moved with machinery (lifting aids, forklift trucks, etc). However, there are still bags of fertiliser and feed that can weigh in excess of 40kg that may need to be handled without help from machinery.
Lifting and moving animals (like pigs, cows and sheep) is also a common cause of injury in the agricultural industry.
When concerning the handling of animals, it’s not just employee health that needs to be considered, the health and safety of the animals should also be accounted for.
Ensuring agricultural employees are properly trained on how to lift heavy loads/animals will lead to a reduction in injuries caused by manual handling.
Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH)
Working in the agricultural sector exposes employees to a wide range of chemicals. For example – fertilisers, pesticides, disinfectants and dust.
Under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002) the occupational use of chemicals is regulated to protect employee safety.
Working with dangerous substances could lead to potential health issues, diseases such as – asthma, farmer’s lung and bronchitis.
The workplace exposure limit for all substances should be kept to an absolute minimum to protect agricultural workers.
Employers in this industry should try to eliminate and control exposure, monitor the health of employees to limit the effects of working with hazardous substances. Workplace training should also be implemented to ensure all employees know the dangers and how to handle substances that may cause ill health.
Contact with Machinery
In agriculture, there is a wide variety of vehicles, machinery and equipment that may pose danger to employees health and safety! The Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) states that employees working on farms must be protected, which is the responsibility of the employer.
Work areas and practices should be maintained to ensure worker safety. There are many different types of machinery that those in the agricultural sector may need to use at some point.
For example – tractors, harvesters, lifting aids, slurry tankers, feeder wagons and bale and straw choppers,
Before employees use any machinery on the job, they should be well trained on how to operate it safely and what to do if something goes wrong.
Machinery should also be regularly inspected and maintained to reduce the likelihood of a fault. This can save employees from potentially serious and life-changing injuries.
Slips, Trips and Falls
Agricultural workers have an increased risk of suffering an injury as a result of a slip, trip or fall! There are many different areas and walking surfaces which may lead to serious injury.
Common slip, trip and fall hazards in agriculture include; equipment, uneven floor, cords, unseen objects, soiled ground and wet/icy conditions.
A simple way to reduce these kinds of accidents is to ensure the workplace is clean and tidy. A disorganised and unkept working area is far more likely to result in the trip, slip or fall when compared to an organised and tidy area.
Employers in the agricultural industry are responsible for reducing the risk of slips, trips and falls. Installing safety equipment (e.g. handrails, slip-resistant mats, etc) and conducting proper workplace training is an easy way to decrease injuries caused by these problems.
Amber is an Intern project support officer and blogger for Wurkplace, helping with digital marketing and content writing.
She holds a BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour degree from the University of Chester, and is passionate about broadening her skill set.