This is one of the busiest times of the year for Farmers and Farm Workers. The race is on to bring in the harvest. Many farms hire temporary workers specifically to assist at this time.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) says that the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry is the riskiest sector in terms of fatal injuries. One in a hundred workers (employees and the self-employed) work in agriculture, but the industry accounts for one in five fatal injuries.
Fortunately, fatal injuries have fallen significantly since the 1970’s but in the last ten years, almost one person a week has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work. Scores of others have been seriously injured or made ill by their work.
So, why is the potential for injury in agricultural work so significant?
Agricultural workers regularly come in to contact with large machinery, hazardous chemicals (such as pesticides), fragile farm buildings and confined spaces such as silos, slurry pits and fuel storage tanks. They are often required to move heavy and cumbersome items such as hay bales and animal feed without correct lifting training or mechanical equipment, putting workers at risk of back injuries.
Falls from height are one of the highest causes of deaths and major injuries in agriculture. Work on farm roofs, under time constraints and in unsuitable weather conditions often leads to avoidable injury and death.
Throw the unpredictability of livestock into the mix and it is easy to see why agricultural industries carry so much risk.
My most recent experience of dealing with an agricultural injury was in acting for a young man employed at a pig farm in Leicestershire. He was seriously injured in two of three separate incidents in a six month period. Each incident was entirely avoidable, and all were as a result of shoddy practice.
The attitude of his Employer seemed to be that there was no duty for them to take any steps to keep their Employees safe (save for what amounted to a form filling exercise, dressed up as a risk assessment). My client was put under significant pressure not to claim compensation. Even after liability was admitted by the farm owner’s insurance company he was dismissed for being ‘unlucky’.
Anecdotal evidence from fellow solicitors suggests to me that this attitude by Employers within the farming industry is not at all unusual.
It is not just Employers that need to take care. Employees have a duty to take care of their own and other’s health and safety. If you work on a local farm, cooperate with your employer, remember your training and if you aren’t sure about something, ask!
Accidents are just that and it is impossible to eliminate them completely, but if every business and employee involved in agriculture followed simple guidance, there would be a considerable reduction in injuries and deaths. With improvements in technology, increased awareness and a society with a greater respect for human life, the situation has improved over the years. However, compared to other industries, there is still a long way to go.
Taylor&Emmet has experts in personal injury and employment law who can helps farms and their workers ensure health and safety procedures are in place and deal with the aftermath of accidents. For further information, telephone (0114) 218 4000, visit www.tayloremmet.co.uk or follow the firm on Twitter @tayloremmet.