This month is the peak of harvest for cereal growers. It is a hectic time, with crops, weather and yields at the forefront of farmers’ minds.
A good harvest can make or break the farming year – but it remains imperative that farmers do not lose sight of their safety obligations and security requirements.
This helps to keep farm workers and farm assets safe – and is critical in preserving the long-term viability of the farm business.
Thieves – both organised and opportunist – rely on a lack of vigilance at harvest to make off with their ill gotten gains. So make life difficult for them.
Where possible, machinery should be stored in secure sheds. Window and door alarms should be fitted, alongside security cameras and light sensors. If machinery needs to be left overnight in the field, it should be hidden from view and keys removed.
Many farmers are turning to more high-tech forms of security, such as geo-fencing, which allows for a boundary to be created and an alarm triggered if a vehicle enters or exits the property.
Other measures include anti-tampering devices, such a clear gel that transfers onto criminals’ hands and clothing, as well as fitting tracker devices and forensically marking machinery.
Farmers can register valuables on immobilise.com, a free online service that helps police identify owners of recovered property.
For hired machinery, ensure that anyone operating the machinery complies with the insurance requirements, as failure to do so could result in a shortfall or failed claim.
Inevitably, the value of buildings’ contents may rise at this time of year, due to the storage of machinery and other commodities. So ensure that insurance is up-to-date and offers sufficient cover.
It is also vital that all farm hands are aware of the security procedures and that they are on the look-out for suspicious behaviour and know to report anything that raises concern.
With livestock now out to pasture, farms are at an increased risk of livestock rustling so measures should be taken to ensure fields, hedges, fences, walls and gates are well maintained and livestock are carefully monitored.
Livestock should always be tagged to aid identification and an accurate and up-to-date record of all livestock kept. Ensure the value of the full herd or flock is covered by insurance, not just a proportion, to avoid the possibilities of a shortfall in the event of a loss.
Finally, criminals wish to be swift in their actions, so creating obstructions, such as padlocked gates and doors with reinforced hinges, boulders or ditches on boundaries, and immobilising vehicles can help deter would-be thieves, as can visible security and signage at key access points and perimeters.
Farm Watch schemes can be extremely valuable to farmers by helping to improve the intelligence flow between agricultural communities and the police, and farmers may also find Farm Security Self-Assessments, available from police forces and insurance companies, are a useful resource.
Reducing the death toll
There were 34 fatal injuries in agriculture during 2020/21, an increase of 13 from the low of 21 seen in the previous year.
The agricultural sector is notorious for high injury and fatality rates. During harvest season, with an influx of farm hands and temporary workers, that risk is further compounded.
Health and safety fines remain high and we have seen farmers fork out hundreds of thousands of pounds for breaches every year.
The best way for farmers to mitigate safety risks and protect their business is to ensure that they are fully compliant with health and safety law and have all the necessary protections in place.
Farmers can take simple, practical steps to improve safety standards. Firstly, they should identify the risks posed by their business and create health and safety policies aimed at reducing these risks. Robust risk assessments and health and safety training will help ensure standards do not slip.
All farm hands should be trained and qualified in operating machinery, where necessary, and records of relevant paperwork should be up-to-date and stored securely, such as Employers’ Liability insurance and certifications. Farmers should be wary of ‘calling in favours’ from younger members of the family or inexperienced family friends.
Farmers who are hard-pressed for time should consider appointing someone within the business to look after health and safety policies and procedures, ensuring they have the training and knowledge required, or seek support from an external expert, who can identify gaps and missed opportunities, as well as make recommendations for improvements.
Anderson Fossett is an account executive with rural insurance broker Lycetts. For details, visit www.lycetts.co.uk