Last week was Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK. Organised by the Farm Safety Foundation, also known as Yellow Wellies, this year marks the 9th annual event. The campaign seeks to reduce the number of accidents on farms, raise awareness, and help farmers develop a culture of safety around their work environment.
What is Farm Safety Week?
The idea of Farm Safety Week is to help farmers and farm workers make more informed decisions about their farm safety. From risk assessments to implementing safety procedures and looking after physical and mental wellbeing, all these help to decrease the number of accidents on farms and create a safety culture.
The term ‘safety culture’ is a bit of a buzzword in Health and Safety circles, but it’s an important concept. The idea is that in any environment where dangers are present, safety is a shared priority. The beliefs, actions, values and attitudes of an organisation combine to make an environment where safety is as important as any other aspect.
The Dangers of Working on a Farm
Agriculture is one of the most important industries around the world, but also one of the most dangerous. In the UK last year, although it only has only 1% of workers, over 20% of workplace fatalities were in the agricultural sector. In the last 12 months, more than 50 people have died in farm-related accidents, nearly doubling since last year. Taking into account work-related injuries and illness as well, agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries across Europe.
Farming poses a number of risks, many of which are also present in other industries. What sets agriculture apart is the combination of dangers and the pressures of the job.
- Long working hours
- High stress situations
- Late nights
- Working with heavy machinery
- Hard physical labour
- Livestock handling
- Tight deadlines
- Economic uncertainty
How Are Things Changing?
More and more people are starting to realise the need for better safety practices. Across Europe, the research group SACURIMA – formed from a collaboration of over 30 countries – looks into why agriculture is so dangerous and what can be done about it. Initiatives, like Farm Safety Week, urge farmers to take time to discuss safety and identify the high risk areas of their work. Governmental bodies have released resources and created policy to drive health and safety improvements in the industry.
Organisations for young farmers have become particularly important in the movement. As one of the most difficult parts of creating a safety culture stems from changing traditions, young farmers can feel pressured to do things in a certain way. Many Young Farmers’ Clubs provide training in on-farm safety to their members and give support and community to those who might otherwise feel isolated.