Last week alone, four people died in the UK from farming related accidents. This is a number the Farm Safety Foundation wants to reduce, by raising awareness of potential dangers in the farming environment and encouraging workers to put safety at the forefront of everything they do. ‘Farm Safety Week’ is an initiative, now in its seventh year, that aims to inspire farmers to look after their physical and mental wellbeing.
Here at EPC-UK we run two farms – one at Venture Crescent, which is approximately 500 acres, and the other at Bramble Island which is around 1,000 acres. Both farms provide buffer areas around our facilities as well as being ran as stand-alone businesses, growing arable crops such as wheat, sugar beet, spring barley, and rape seed.
The farms are managed by three full-time members of staff, Jack Pile, Roger Pile and Lindsay Standing. All three are extremely experienced farmers, but safety is still their number one priority, as Jack explains:
“According to the Farm Safety Foundation, 39 people have lost their lives in farming related accidents this year, which is an alarming statistic. Here at EPC-UK, ensuring the safety of our farming employees is crucial and as such we have been using the ‘Farm Safety Week’ initiative to reinforce the safety message.
As we grow food related produce, our farms are inspected on an annual basis and must be accredited by the NFS, an organisation that monitors food, safety and quality in the UK. As part of these inspections, we are rated on our health and safety procedures. However, safety is a daily concern for us and we have put a number of processes in place to ensure our day-to-day physical and mental wellbeing.
Firstly, as a small team, we have a very open culture whereby if anyone has a concern they wish to raise, we will arrange a meeting immediately to discuss how we can best resolve it. We also have a more formal “Safety Pause” once a week, during which we focus on a specific topic.
However, throughout Farm Safety Week we are holding a daily “Safety Pause”, during which we are discussing different issues, from using heavy machinery and working at heights, to being more aware about mental health and encouraging our colleagues to communicate more openly. We are also using these “Safety Pauses” to remind ourselves of the procedures we have already initiated over the past few years.”
To help ensure all three of them return safe from work every day, Jack, Roger and Lindsay have introduced several safety practices to which they adhere. These include:
- Encouraging members of their families, for example a spouse or partner, to text “come home safe” daily. This personal message reminds them be constantly vigilant throughout the working day
- Carrying a three-way radio – in addition to a mobile phone – to ensure they are in constant contact with each other
- Constantly remembering to “look out, look up”, a mantra they use when driving large vehicles, such as combine harvesters, and which was introduced due to low hanging telegraph wires. Most telegraph poles were erected over 30 years ago and as such the wires are quite low, which was fine for older machines, but not for modern, larger vehicles
- Making sure that they always carry water. This may seem like as simple and obvious point, but with a farmer’s working day being so long, they need to ensure they are properly hydrated
- “Do the right thing, not the quickest”, a saying they work to daily. It is very tempting to take short cuts to get a job done more quickly, but this can lead to accidents. Ensuring a job is done correctly and safely is more important than the speed at which is it done
- Introducing a “right to stop work” ethos, which means any employee has the right to stop a job if they believe it is not safe to proceed.
“We are extremely proud of our safety record, but we know that accidents can occur and we mustn’t rest on our laurels. ‘Farm Safety Week’ has helped to reinforce the importance of our safety – both physical and mental – and we will continue to work towards keeping ourselves and our colleagues safe,” adds Jack.