How to get started
The good news is that managing health and safety does not have to be complicated, time-consuming or expensive. For many businesses, all that’s required is a basic series of steps to protect you, your employees and the public from harm.
As an employer, whether on a large or small farm, it is your legal responsibility to safeguard the welfare of your staff, and that of contractors, service engineers and any visitors to your premises. The purpose of health and safety legislation is simply to ensure that people at work are safe and that the work environment does not cause illness or injury.
It is a sobering fact that, on average, almost one person a week is killed in the UK as a direct result of agricultural work and many more suffer serious injury or are made ill by their work. The most common causes of death are: being struck by moving vehicles, being struck by moving objects (such as bales or trees), falls from height, asphyxiation, drowning, contact with machinery, injury by an animal, being trapped by something collapsing or overturning, and contact with electricity, mostly from contact with overhead power lines.
If your farm employs staff, you should also have employer’s liability insurance and you should provide a copy of the HSE leaflet ‘Health and Safety Law: What you need to know’ to each employee.
Writing it down
Your health and safety policy is a straightforward summary of how you will manage health and safety in your farm business and it should guide all your business activities. Here are some helpful tips about how you should approach writing it and what it should cover:
1) Be clear and be specific to your own farm
2) State your general aims for your employees’ health and safety and accept that general responsibility for health and safety rests with you as the employer
3) Outline the specific responsibilities that various people have to make the policy a reality
4) Describe the systems and procedures in place
5) Set out clearly how you will let all your workers know about the policy.
6) Review your policy from time to time and whenever circumstances change, and make sure that it is supported by enough money, people and time to enable it to be put into action.
Risk assessments will help show you whether you are taking all the steps you could to minimise risk. Think through all the things in your farm business that might cause harm to people and consider whether you are taking all the measures you reasonably can to prevent that harm. A risk assessment is not about creating paperwork, it’s about identifying sensible measures to control risks in the workplace, so that everyone stays safe.
The law does not expect you to remove all risk or to anticipate unforeseeable risks, but to protect people by putting reasonable measures into place to control risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Training for employees
As an employer, you must provide free health and safety training for your staff for any equipment they need to use, including the use, maintenance and checking of personal protective equipment. The length and degree of training should be proportionate to the risks involved. For low risk activities, providing simple information may be sufficient but for higher risk activities, more advanced technical training may be required. It is important that everyone should be made aware of the hazards and risks they may face, the measures put in place to deal with those hazards and risks, and how to follow any emergency procedures.
It is your responsibility as an employer to provide adequate facilities for your employees. Welfare facilities should include toilets and hand basins, with soap and towels or a hand dryer, drinking water, a place to store clothes and somewhere to change, as well as somewhere to rest and eat meals. You should also do as much as you reasonably can to provide a healthy and safe working environment.
First Aid is vital on a farm.
Immediate and proper treatment of injuries can save lives as well as reduce pain and the severity of the injury, helping the injured person to recover more quickly. You should appoint a designated person to take charge of first aid arrangements. Make sure you provide an appropriately stocked first aid box and facilities suitable for your farm’s workplace requirements, such as travelling first aid kits for tractors and other vehicles, and areas or equipment for showering off chemical spills and splashes.
Always ensure that the whereabouts of all staff on the farm is known, particularly lone workers. Practice drills and training of staff should take place regularly to ensure that everyone is familiar with the necessary processes, and signs giving the location of first aid equipment should be clearly visible. Lastly, you should familiarise yourself with RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations) 2013, which covers your responsibility for reporting accidents in the workplace.