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President's Blog - 20 July 2017

With the combines appearing in the fields of many areas of Scotland, and as farmers and crofters go about their busy days, it is the perfect recipe for accidents to happen.

Once again, we are supporting Farm Safety Week, taking place from 24 to 28 July, with Scottish farmers telling their stories and the mistakes they have made, but fortunately have recovered with time.

We need to drive home the message that farm safety is a lifestyle, not just a slogan.

In 2015/16, there were eight deaths in Scotland in the agricultural industry – but as we know even one death is one too many. The lasting impact on family, friends and the wider community can be devastating and we are determined to work with the industry to lower this statistic.

Across Great Britain there have been 390 fatalities between 2005/06 and 2014/15. Of these, 126 (32 per cent) were employees, 210 (54 per cent) were self-employed people and 54 (14 per cent) were non-employed people who were killed as a result of someone else’s work activity.

Of the 54 deaths to non-employed people, 17 were children (under 16 years of age).

We need to take action right across the industry to protect ourselves, our families and those visiting our farms and crofts. Implementing the simplest of measures could help to save a life.

I know all too well what the consequences of trying to cut corners to just get a task done can be, as I found out earlier this year. The outcome was fractures, blood and bruising.

If it had been anybody else I would have been thinking how could you be so bloody stupid. Well it was me and I was bloody stupid. You can take the word bloody either way but I suggest in this context take it as the life maintaining fluid, just to get it past the editor, but you will know what I mean.

It was a Saturday night. My son had been pushing up the silage for the night for the cows and one of the feed barrier concrete panels 6m x 0.5m x 100mm fell into the feed passage amongst the cows (no animals were hurt during the event).

This meant he came to me to help rectify the situation as the cows would be standing on it and silage would be getting wasted. Tools deemed appropriate were  crow bars, pinch bars and two hardy farmer types.  That proved ineffective and a tractor and loader were brought in. It seemed to be going well until there was a shuddering at the loader end.

All I can tell you I that the half-lifted panel was no longer half-lifted, myself and the pinch bar had failed to keep up our end of the job and it had fallen again. This time though my foot was below it. I can honestly say I didn’t go oops!

Accident and emergency is fairly quiet at 7.30pm on a Saturday night and I am very grateful for the care and x-rays that I was given. I had the front of my foot crushed, sustained fractures on my toe and there was a lot of blood and bruising.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Had I not been in such a rush to get the panel up to get on with other things and thought about how to do it a bit smarter that accident wouldn’t have happened; had l left the tractor do the lifting at its end and put wood at my end to prop it up as it was rising; all this could have prevented my foot ending up under that slab, and my visit to A&E.

My advice – take your time and think through the job properly, don’t try to cut corners.

For more information and to view advice on making your farm or croft a safer place to live and work visit: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/campaigns/farm-safety.aspx

Farm Safety Week is supported by various organisations including the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.

Farm Safety Partnership Scotland members are NFU Scotland, NFU Mutual, HSE and Scottish Government.


Author: Andrew McCornick

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