Farm safety webinar discusses industry dilemma and solutions

Solutions to the ongoing farm safety dilemma were discussed at a webinar organised by Farmers’ Union of Wales Insurance Services Ltd. (FUWIS) as part of the virtual Royal Welsh Show. 

Keynote speakers on the day included Tony Succamore,Sales and Operations Director of FUW Insurance Services Ltd; Georgina Davis, Business Development Manager (Midlands) at British Engineering Services; Health and Safety Executive representative Christopher Maher and Farm safety expert and instructor Brian Rees. Chairing the webinar was Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy President and FUW Insurance Services Ltd. board member Ian Rickman.

Opening the event, Mr Rickman said: “It saddens me to know that despite efforts to highlight the dangers on farms time and time again, we have still not seen a decrease in these figures. Together with our partners in the Wales Farm Safety Partnership, we are working on raising awareness and reducing the risk of harm faced by those in our industry. 

“We have got used to hearing those kinds of statistics over the years but we need to keep putting that message out there and get an improvement on those figures. As farmers we are busy, with silage and hay at the moment, but planning and jotting down a few thoughts on what the risks are could really help.” 

Outlining the latest statistics, Health and Safety Executive representative Christopher Maher told the audience that a total 41 fatalities were recorded in 2020/2021, and they included 9 employees killed, 25 self-employed killed and 7 members of the public killed - which is an increase from the 21 the year before. 

“Agriculture by metric is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous industry within the UK. In 2020/2021 the agricultural fatal injury rate in the UK was 20 times higher than the all industry rate,” said Mr Maher.

Welsh farming fatalities for 2020/2021 included 7 farmers. 4 farmers were hit by a moving vehicle. Either whilst another person was driving or when they left the vehicle to complete a task. 2 farmers, a father and son, were killed by a water buffalo and 1 farmer was killed when his ATV overturned. 

“Those are pretty sobering statistics. What we need to focus on is how we can improve those statistics and there are some things farmers can do. Sadly most of the deaths in this report could have been avoided using simple, low cost or cost free measures. Tiredness and fatigue could be a factor and farmers should assess risks and plan accordingly.” 

Georgina Davies from the British Engineering Services, was clear that farm safety is still very much an education piece but that farmers need to be aware of rules and regulations. 

“We take risk very seriously and therefore testing and reporting on agricultural machinery, in order to keep the UK farming industry safe is our purpose. Our knowledge of plant and equipment is second to none and we’re experts in all relevant legislation, so that our customers don’t have to be. We know exactly what needs to be inspected and how often,” she said. 

Ms Davis highlighted that if plant or machinery fails it may result in interruption to the business, fines or even prosecution, stressing that the HSE’s fee for intervention is now at £160 per hour.

“There is also the danger to employees, contractors, family members, members of the public to consider and of course the loss of reputation. It’s extremely important to manage your risk and British Engineering Services are here to help ensure you protect your business and your family,” added Ms Davis.

Sales and Operations Director of FUW Insurance Services Ltd, Tony Succamore, outlined how the right insurance cover might not be able to prevent accidents, but that it’s essential in protecting your business in the worst case scenarios.

“Accidents will happen no matter how careful we are. But when they do happen, one of the first people you call is your insurance company. If you’re with a broker like FUWIS or deal directly with an insurer, this is when the insurance you do have in place will be tested and you find out how good or bad they are. 

“Our claims teams see the results of accidents on farms on a daily basis and we see the impact they have on individuals, families and businesses. Thankfully on most occasions we’re able to respond and put things right for our clients. However there are times when problems do arise because either cover is not in place or is inadequate to cover the loss. Neither our farmers nor us want to be in that position,” said Mr Succamore.

The accident statistics we’ve seen show that death and permanent disability are not uncommon in farming, Mr Succamore added, and farmers must consider the effect this will have on their family and business. 

“FUWIS now offers a bespoke income protection and life insurance service to guide you through the options. Whatever challenges you face in life, you don’t have to face them alone. Protection is available, and we can help you with that,” he added.

Well known farm safety expert and instructor Brian Rees, from Abbeycwmhir, near Llandrindod Wells, told the audience that the first thing we need to do is convince the industry that we have a problem.

“70-80% of farmers don’t think we have a problem. As long as it doesn’t happen to them, we’ll just carry on. But look at the figures - it’s carnage,” said Mr Rees.

Some things, he said, can be addressed by looking at machinery itself and a lot more can be done through inspections on farms. “The industry has done quite a lot in the last 20 years, no farmer can plead ignorance when an inspector goes to visit them and starts issuing improvement notices. The SHAD events have now run for just under 20 years, which started in 1990. If you attend those events, you would not need on farm inspections. That worked well and we had the right people turning up. Training should become standard for our industry,” said Mr Rees. 

The Farm Safety Partnerships have done some good work in highlighting the problems and providing solutions, Mr Rees told the audience. “Yet when you mention farm safety to a farmer they almost cringe a little because they think it’s either going to cost them money or stop them from doing something. Health and safety doesn’t stop you from doing anything, it gets you to do it safely. Look at the job and plan it and then you know what you have to do,” he added.

The audience further heard that you’re seven times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would be on a construction site. “The first comment we get back is that it's alright for construction; they've got plenty of money. They can afford to be safe. Now if you look at those 7 deaths we’ve had in Wales, money didn’t make any difference to any of those. 

“It doesn’t cost anything to look behind you when you reverse, it doesn’t cost anything to put the handbrake on, it doesn’t cost anything to clean your windows, it doesn’t cost anything to check the tyre pressure in your quad bike. Money isn’t a factor in safety,” said Mr Rees.