Much of our focus during Farm Safety Week has been on how those working within the agricultural industry can keep themselves and their employees safe, but what about where recreational users are making use of public rights of way where they cross fields or working farm yards? They are essentially strolling across the farming industry’s factory floor with all the inherent risks that it entails.
The landowner owes a duty of care to ensure that members of the public are not exposed to unreasonable risks on their land. There are several areas that CLA members should consider in carrying out this duty.
We covered the dos and don’ts of keeping livestock in an article in the March issue of Land & Business (members need to log in to read the online version). Those farmers who keep cattle in fields with public rights of way should make sure they are complying with the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Agricultural Information Sheet 17, which contains guidance on keeping the public safe around cattle.
One major area of concern in recent years has been the number of deaths and injuries caused by cattle – usually cows and calves and, in many cases involving a dog accompanying the walker.
The CLA recently met with Natural Environment Minister Trudy Harrison to discuss our proposal, which would allow land managers to temporarily divert public rights of way where livestock are present, offering users a safer alternative. We have followed this meeting with a letter setting out more detail on our proposal - so it is a case of watching this space for legislative change here.
Furniture on public rights of way
It goes almost without saying that all furniture on public rights of way (stiles, gates, etc.) should be well-maintained. S146 of the Highways Act 1980 places this duty firmly on the landowner. Where these structures need replacing, your local Highway Authority can offer financial support for 25% of the cost of maintenance. Having safe gates and stiles not only prevents users from injuring themselves but also provides safe egress from the field should there be a potential incident with any grazing livestock.
Paths may sometimes cross areas of the farm where it is impossible to remove all risks from the public. For example, they may traverse farm yards, run along farm tracks or cross fields where livestock are present. In this instance, there is a need for signage to make the general public aware of risks.
The CLA has developed an excellent range of robust signage that informs users of rights of way about clearing up after their dog and keeping their dog on a lead (but releasing it if the cattle start to chase), along with waymarkers to ensure they keep on the right route.
CLA Public Rights of Way signs availableThe CLA has produced several CLA public rights of way signs to help guide the public while they enjoy the countryside.
Where paths present other hazards, you may need to consider other messages, such as warnings about nearby deep water, moving farm machinery or a slurry pit. If you have used temporary electric fencing to manage grazing areas where there is also public access then warning signs should be in place every 50-100 metres along the length of the fence.
The CLA has also developed a lesson plan for schools, freely available to all, based on the Countryside Code to teach primary school children how they can keep safe and enjoy the countryside. These are also great for use by other groups, such as Cadet units, Scout Troops and Guide Packs. We are even aware of it being used at Countryside Education days.
Countryside CodeDownload our free resource pack and lesson plan
Safety doesn’t happen by accident, so let’s do everything we can to make this a safe summer for everyone.