Five ways to start a conversation about farm safety

Thanks to the great work of The Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies), Farm Safety Partnership, Wales Farm Safety Partnership, Health and Safety Executive and others, there is today a greater focus on farm safety than ever before – but still, as an industry, we witness unacceptable numbers of accidents, injuries and fatalities in our farm work place.

The regular messages to draw attention to the issue are important but translating this into lasting change in practice on farm can be a bigger challenge.

At FCN we receive calls to our Helpline that highlight the problems that result from farm accidents and the lasting effects this can have on farm families and communities.

Talking about safety on the farm can be challenging; it is difficult to acknowledge when changes may be required and finding the time or knowing what to look out for can be easier said than done.

We highlight five areas you may wish to consider below drawn from our experience of supporting people working on farms:

1) Take a lead, change the culture

Whilst employers have a responsibility for their staff and need to ensure they are creating safe working environments, the person primarily in charge of your personal wellbeing and safety is you. We all need to take responsibility for looking after ourselves and those we work with. This is how a safety culture begins – it’s everyone’s job.

Here’s a few suggestions for how to start embracing a safe working culture:

  • Make safety visible on the farm, set an example to others.
  • Have regular discussions about safe working.
  • Encourage staff to share ideas and tips on safety.
  • Have a safety notice board in an office, workshop or staff area.
  • Maintain a record of ‘near misses’ and act upon them to avoid a repeat.
  • Award staff members for their safe working and developing safer working methods

2) Get a safety buddy

It is often easier to spot other people’s unsafe working practices more easily than our own. Think about teaming up with a neighbour to visit each other’s farms and offer suggestions for improving safe working. Agree to let each other know if you are working alone and/or remotely and check in with each other. And if you are feeling fatigued and need someone to help with a tricky job at the end of the day, agree that you will contact each other, rather than taking a risk.

3) Call it out – nicely!

If you are a student or staff member on a farm, it can be daunting to point out something that you feel is unsafe. You may worry about offending someone, stepping over the mark, or even feel you could damage your future prospects.

But your safety, and that of work colleagues, must be the priority. Always let someone know if you feel something is unsafe. If you identify a potential hazard and don’t do anything about it, you or a colleague could end up getting injured or worse – it never hurts to raise any concerns you may have, and you may have noticed something others within the business haven’t.

If you are concerned about how to have this conversation, call the FCN Helpline (03000 111 999) for a confidential chat.

4) Say ‘no’ if you have to

If you feel you are being asked to do something you consider to be unsafe, explain why, and don’t feel pressured into taking a risk.  Ultimately your safety and wellbeing is more important than a job.

5) Be prepared

However much we try and avoid accidents, they can still happen occasionally, so be prepared. Make sure everyone has basic first aid skills and that you have appropriate emergency equipment like first aid kits and fire extinguishers. Ensure you know your location at all times and the location of fields on the farm to direct emergency services to (what3words is useful). And prepare some brief notes in case you are unable to work, so that someone else would know what to do with livestock and how to contact the vet, coop, feed supplier, for example.

Author: Mark Thomas, FCN National Helpline Manager

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