In Great Britain, agriculture workers and farmers like you make up 1.8% of the entire workforce, yet the industry also accounts for about 19% of the reported fatal injuries each year.* In other countries across the world, where many more people work on farms without the strict regulations the UK has, the fatal injury rate is usually much higher.
This all goes to show that farming can be a hazardous occupation if you aren’t aware of the risks and take all the necessary precautions.
Below we’ve compiled the 10 best tips we have for farmers of all kinds – staying safe is important for your wellbeing and your farm so follow these tips and you can’t go too wrong.
Whether you’re just starting out your farming career or looking for a quick refresher, this is the list for you. Make sure to bookmark this page and use it as a checklist every so often to ensure your farm is a safe environment to work in!
1 Read the manuals!
Starting with possibly the simplest safety point we have: reading the manual before leaping into action. It’s important to take time to read the manual on each farming machine or piece of equipment you buy – make sure that you know how to use it and how to shut it down quickly in an emergency. This will ensure that you are safe while using the equipment and you don’t cause damage to your farm or produce, which could cost you a lot of money.
2 Take care of your work areas
Keeping your working areas clean, tidy and organised allows you to operate your farm safely each and every day. Cleaning equipment thoroughly prevents the spread of diseases or infestations, whether you farm livestock, grains or any other kind of crop. Use the right cleaning chemicals and tools for each individual work area too.
Doing regular checks of your work spaces and equipment will make sure that they’re safe and suitable for farm work and all is operating correctly. Tidy away any mess and keep your equipment shut down and securely locked away overnight to keep it safe.
Ensure that your farm is a safe place for people to work.
3 Treat livestock with respect
Treating animals right is an ethical and safe way to farm livestock. It’s important to remember they are more than just stock/produce.
Beyond the ethics, there are many safety related reasons why you should treat your livestock with respect. Firstly, angry and mistreated animals can be dangerous and do damage to you, your workers and your farm property. Furthermore, ill animals kept in unsuitable, unclean enclosures create the perfect environment for illness, infection and pest infestation to thrive.
Take care of all animals, ensure that they are kept in appropriate, clean enclosures and use strict hygiene rules for those in contact with the animals.
4 Know the rules
Make sure to keep up to date with all regulations and laws regarding your farm. Some of them may just seem a bit silly and unnecessary, but they’re never pointless and they are there for a reason.
For example, having the recommended safety wear, having the correct signs and warnings visible on your farm, equipment and vehicles and many other little things could be the difference between a safely run farm and chaos.
Set up reminders or subscribe for updates if possible so you’ll know as soon as new regulations are brought in.
5 Store crops safely
There’s more to storing crops than just ensuring your produce will last the winter. You should be taking the necessary safety precautions so your crops are handled in a safe manner.
Don’t attempt to dry grain or wash crops when you don’t have the right equipment for the job. Avoid drying/washing more produce than your machinery can take at one time too.
Grain can be incredibly flammable and even act as a quicksand when in large storage bins – make sure that your workers know how to handle and store the grain and any other crops correctly. Storing the crops in the right environment, and maintaining that environment, will ensure that your crops remain uninfected and suitable for human consumption.
6 Keep your farm land secure
It’s very important to keep children and trespassers off your land. They may be harmless children, maybe even your own, or friendly travellers who you may be inclined to give permission to for camping on your land.
This could be potentially very unsafe and dangerous for them, you and your produce or livestock. Here’s just some of the reasons why:
- They bring bacteria or pests from the outside world that could infect your livestock/produce
- They may hurt or endanger themselves on farm equipment
- They may tamper with farm equipment making it unsafe for you to use
Create a safe space away from your farming equipment and produce for children to play and ensure that travellers and any other strangers cannot just wander into farming areas.
7 Keep dangerous materials under lock and key
Store any chemicals correctly and make sure they are properly labelled. This includes cleaning products, fertilisers and any other products that could be potentially dangerous if used by someone unaware of what they’re handling.
Make sure that all containers are labelled (if not already done so by the manufacturers) showing what they contain and any other dangerous properties they may have i.e. corrosive.
Ensure that your workers are properly educated on how to use the chemicals safely and make it very clear that anyone without this training and permission cannot be trusted with these chemical related jobs.
8 Learn first aid
First aid skills are essential when a disaster strikes. In offices across the country staff are trained in first aid as part of health and safety regulations. There’s no doubt that if a bunch of desk workers need this training then so do you.
You should make sure that you have first aid tools available on your farm as well as taking other precautions: clearly mark fire exits and have a plan ready for emergency situations – who is responsible for what? Do your workers know what they should do?
You can contact the Red Cross or local colleges to see what first aid training options are available to you.
9 Drive Safely
It is important to drive safely both on your own land and on public highways. Don’t just assume that because you’re on your own land there’s no need to drive cautiously – keep children away from working machinery and don’t let inexperienced people drive the vehicles themselves. Keep an eye out for unstable land or erosion – make a note of this so others are aware when working on the fields.
When transporting crops around, ensure that they are securely in place. Always use the appropriate containers and transport for each crop – don’t go over on weight limits and be careful at corners.
10 Look after yourself
This one is often swept to the bottom of the pile of things to do, yet it is incredibly important to ensure that you are well-rested and ready for farm work.
Being tired, depressed or under the influence of alcohol can cause serious problems on your farm. With your judgment impaired you could make very bad farm management decisions and also put yourself and your workers in harm’s way.
Make sure that you are alert, well-fed and ready for the working day. Keep your mind active and be ready for challenges.
Furthermore, make sure you are wearing the right clothes for the job – loose clothes can get caught in machinery, sometimes causing fatal injuries.
Above all, remember to not take unnecessary risks. The key to running a safe, prosperous farm is to never become complacent.