Farming Safety Message Not Getting Through

Having just returned from a week with food poisoning I was so saddened to be informed of yet another tragic fatal accident in the farming community.

A father of three was killed on his farm while fixing his Kramer loader. My deepest sympathies go to his wife and young children.

There are two tragedies here, first obviously the death of yet another British farmer but also that the Health and Safety Executive make the promise, come home safe campaign, launched in January, isn’t getting through to farmers.

My friend, who informed me of this farming death, lives on a neighbouring farm to the farmer who died and this tragic event triggered an internet search which resulted in the above campaign being noticed for the first time.

She said “One of the things I found there was the above campaign …. but how many of us would be actually LOOKING for this sort of campaign? If we already understood the risks, we would not need the campaign .. The campaign should be LOOKING for US… it is clearly not getting enough publicity … it should be on TV … Radio … posters, leaflets, farmers marts ….”.

This post isn’t just another knock at the government, let’s face it reading about health and safety is a great cure for insomnia but the message from the small farming community to the HSE is ‘your message isn’t getting through to us’.

Would the campaign have saved this life? We will never know.

Perhaps if the farmer had read the campaign material he would have stopped and thought twice about repairing his loader by himself and called in a neighbour to help or perhaps his promise knot would have made him use safer working methods, knowing he had promised his children he would come home safe.

Having worked in health and safety in big industry and being passionate about it’s importance, I know how difficult it is  to get employees to share my enthusiam and take their safety seriously.

People just want to get the job done as quickly and effortlessly a possible but in the farming community we tend to work alone and don’t have the benefit of an employer dragging us in one day a month to ram safety information down our throats in order to comply with government requirements. We don’t have someone like me standing over our shoulders tutting and forcing us to wear a hard hat.

This is why it is imperative the HSE takes their message out to the farming community. When so many lives are at stake it isn’t enough to say we sent leaflets out to 60,000 farms and 6,000 farmers have signed up.

Almost all of the farmers I know are in the North and yet a quick survey of seven farmers today shows that 100% of them have not heard of the campaign and yet 6 out of 7 said they would read it and yes it might make them stop and think.

I don’t have the answers for the HSE as to how to distribute this information but a quick check of the websites for Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, Association of British Dairy Farmers and NFU shows that none of them carry any noticeable information about this campaign, other than posts like this one which will drop off the front page in a couple of days.

Why haven’t the HSE asked websites to place downloadable information on their home pages, even a direct link to the information on the HSE website? They contacted me about the first post I did on this campaign but I have never been asked to display anything about it …. why, I would be more than happy to display such information.

There is oodles of agriculture health and safety information on the HSE website, including a safety guide, free self assessment software and case studies, but nobody goes looking for information on their website until they need to. The information needs to be placed prominently where farmers regularly go for information.

There were 42 deaths on farms in the 2007/08 reporting year and I dread to think how many of them were avoidable.

If you know any farmers then please pass on a link for this page or for the HSE farm safety page. Don’t think “if I email John safety info he’ll think I’ve lost the plot” .. think about people you care for, isn’t it worth sounding like a safety geek for just 5 minutes if it could potentially save a life?

The farming community is quite close knit so ths sort of vital information could easily make it’s way round if we all just make a tiny bit of effort.

We also need to see a lot more effort by the HSE to get this information into the farming community, news of a campaign launch is forgotten in a week so we need the information distributed via means farmers will notice .. the farming websites, farmers marts and through agricultural associations.

Please help us to make this year the year we reduce the number of agriculture related deaths and pass this information to anyone you know in the farming community.

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9 Responses to “Farming Safety Message Not Getting Through”

  1. (22 comments.) Says:

    That is extremely sad news Sally, how dreadful for the family.

    Making a general comment about the Health and Safety campaign. There are two old sayings that come to mind, “You can lead a horse to water etc” and “Familiarity breeds contempt” . I don’t believe there is anybody that works around farm machinery that doesn’t know that it can be dangerous. People cut corners and they take risks. You become blasé about jobs you do regularly. Is the fact that there are so many safety guards etc on machinery now making people not think about the possible remaining dangers. In my teenage years I drove an old blue Fordson Major Tractor, it didn’t have a cab or an anti roll bar and this certainly concentrated the mind on where I could and couldn’t drive it on hilly farmland.
    I don’t know the answer really to all of this, you can keep reminding people, but it still happens.

    Roy Norris’s last blog post..

  2. Sally Says:

    I agree Roy, it’s difficult to make people think about safety .. I myself have done stupid things on farms just to get the job done but when it’s close to home it does make you stop and think. One thing I like about the campaign are the case studies, yes we all prop a tractor up on a couple of crumbling house bricks and a banana skin assuming it won’t fall on us (or we wouldn’t do it) but reading about the times it does fall may make us think twice before doing it again.

    It’s just heart breaking that a wife is now a widow and 3 children (the forth due any day now) will grow up without their father because of a preventable incident. We have to nag until our farmers start to stop and think about the what if’s.

  3. (22 comments.) Says:

    By the way Sally B, I hope you have recovered from the food poisoning OK. None of your own produce I trust. {:)

    Roy Norris’s last blog post..

  4. Sally Says:

    Yes all better now thank you Roy … am overseas at the moment and made the fatal mistake of buying street food … will I ever learn?!!

  5. olly from Glass Verandas (14 comments.) Says:

    This is a sad tale indeed.

    However I think that health and safety information is easily ignored these days as there is simply too much of it, so much so that potentially the more important messages do not find their way through, and if they do, the importance of the message can sometimes be ignored.

  6. Sally Says:

    That is very true Olly, when I was teaching health and safety some of the things I had to teach felt like the “don’t let kids play on swings in case they fall off” rubbish. You are right, when you take things too far people start to ignore them … political correctness is a perfect example.

  7. Alex White from Golf Equipment (1 comments.) Says:

    Thank you very much actually I was looking for something like this!
    Congratulation for your great posting.

  8. Peter Oldham Says:

    Can you teach Health and Safety to farmers? A lot of us were brought up on farms and learned our trade from our fathers at a time when survival in the real world was upermost in our minds. We received little or no advice (never mind training) on the use of our tractor or machines and handling our animals was assumed to be instinctive.
    It is absolutely dreadful and so sad for this family and I am sure that this accident could have been prevented but sadly it will happen again.
    We farmers are a unique breed not receptive to outsiders or to outside advice unless we specifically request it and this is the problem that I doubt can be overcome.

  9. Sally Says:

    Hi Peter, thanks for visiting the blog.

    I agree completely, I can just imagine if I gave a health and safety talk down the local .. “aye lass you’re right about that” while nudging the fella beside them and asking “who’s she then and what’s she on about”.

    It’s why I think this campaign is so important, we tend to think Grandad did it this way and didn’t get killed, father did it this way and didn’t get killed so likely I won’t get killed either. With the case studies in this campaign it just might make some farmers realise that not everyone escapes unhurt or even alive.

    Maybe what we need is a funny book about health and safety or lack thereof on farms, it might be a way to get a serious point across and has half a chance of being read rather than used to light the fire.

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