Putting farm safety in the driving seat

CLA Vice President Gavin Lane discusses the role of the Farm Safety Partnership and considers some of the major challenges still facing safety in agriculture
Tractor in snow

Of the 25 fatalities on farms in Great Britain last year, eight of them involved an agricultural vehicle. Sadly, the vast majority of these accidents were entirely avoidable and could have been averted by some very simple precautions prior to the machine’s operation.

Highlighting the issue of transport and vehicle safety within the agricultural industry has been the focus of the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) in recent months. The body involves many of the primary organisations associated with farming and the rural economy and the CLA has succeeded the NFU as chair.

We spend some time within the partnership talking about ‘behavioural change’ in the farming industry and how we get more of those working on farms to understand that small changes to their behaviour can have long lasting effects on keeping them safe.

I like to use the analogy of seat belt use in cars. Over the last 40 years, the changes associated with this practice has been dramatic. Whilst legislation has proved important, ultimately it has been the ability to get the safety message across and embedded into the general population which means that seeing an individual without their seat belt on is a rare occurrence.

In contrast, it seems that we have a mountain to climb on the equivalent safety measures in agriculture. Take for example, helmet use on All Terrain Vehicle’s (ATV's). The same tropes about the ability to remember, comfort and ease of use were exactly the excuses made about seat belt use in cars. Yet, over the last 35 years, seat belt use has climbed to 98% and in the process now save thousands of road deaths every year.

What will it take for ATV helmet use to get there? We need our younger generation to see helmet use normalised to the level of seat belt wearing and this requires a concerted effort from all sides. The media’s current fascination with farming needs to be backed up with farming programmes showing helmet use as common place. Older farmers and employers have to set an example. Insurers have to emphasise the message on liability for not using a helmet or providing your employee with one.

In the same way that you cannot buy a car without a safety belt, ATV manufacturers need to supply quadbikes with helmets as standard and preferably somewhere to store them securely.

Together these measures can drive behavioural change and an understanding that the small things matter when it comes to safety. It will never be an overnight phenomenon but without the work of the FSP, issues like this fall off the list of priorities and forever get side-lined by an increasingly busy industry.

Stay tuned for more updates from the FSP as it continues to highlight different areas of potential risk within farming and uses broad themes to focus on a different problem area every quarter of the year.

If you have examples of where you think poor practice could be changed, we implore you to contact us and your thoughts.

Key contact:

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Gavin Lane Deputy President, London