Farmers and contractors are being urged to take care this harvest after a year which has seen 34 workers killed on farms.
The warning follows an NFU Live event to discuss how farmers can prepare for a safe harvest – both on and off the road. It was held in partnership with the National Association of Agricultural Contractors (NAAC).
The event was billed as an opportunity for farmers to delve into road safety compliance expectations – and find out how contractors can better work with growers to improve safety and efficiency during harvest.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Harvest is one of the busiest periods in the farming calendar. This often means we’re tired and stressed, so it is absolutely critical that we, and our employees, take extra care when it comes to safety.
“It’s also vital that we look out for each other. While it might be uncomfortable to point out a safety risk to a colleague or friend, we cannot be afraid to highlight where improvements can be made. It may well save a life.”
Long working hours, poorly maintained trailers pressure to get the job done means there is often an increase in road accidents around harvest-time. Heavily laden trailers driven by inexperienced casual workers can also be a risk factor.
Mr Roberts said: “While we are reliant on patient, responsible driving from other road users, we must do what we can to stay safe and legal which can be as simple as making sure we – or any workers – are not too tired.
“It’s important to recognise that safety does not have to mean a huge investment in time and money – it is about adopting simple measures, practices and processes that we embed into our everyday work.”
Mr Roberts said staff on his farm were encouraged to follow the Safe Stop procedure, ensure colleagues knew of their whereabouts when working alone and communicate regularly with other employees during the day.
NAAC chairman Matt Redman said: “Clear and efficient working between farmers and contractors is so important when it comes to getting the job done quickly and getting it done safely.
“Having a log of daily checks and maintenance is really useful and regular communication between the farmer and contractor can go a long way to keeping everyone safe. This can include providing information and maps of any hazards.”
Contact details for someone on site for each party and emergency processes should also be agreed, said Mr Redman. Workers should refrain from using mobile phones while on the move – including celebrating unsafe activities on social media.
Mr Redman said: “Too often we see improper uses of machinery or people using mobile phones on roads being promoted on social media and we need to make this something that is socially unacceptable.”
Health and Safety executive figures show that 34 workers were killed on farms in the year to 31 March. The figure compares with a low of 21 deaths seen in the previous year.
For more on farm safety, read “41 killed in farm accidents“