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Farmers are being urged to help keep staff and children safe this harvest – making it a turning point for improving agriculture’s appalling accident... Plea to keep safe on farm this harvest

Farmers are being urged to help keep staff and children safe this harvest – making it a turning point for improving agriculture’s appalling accident record.

The call comes ahead of this year’s Farm Safety Week (22-26 July), which will highlight ways of staying safe on UK farms. Organised by the Farm Safety Foundation – or Yellow Wellies charity –  it works to improve the physical and mental health of the next generation of farmers.

Farming makes up just 1% of the UK’s working population – but accounts for 16% of all workplace deaths. There are, on average, a further 23,000 reported cases every year of long-term ill health or serious injury within the agricultural industry.

Busy period

Harvest and the busy period into autumn are peak times for farm accidents. Many involve large machines driven and operated by inexperienced temporary farm workers and students on summer placements.

More than 120 industry representatives discussed the importance of farm safety and mental well-being during a recent 10th anniversary Farm Safety Foundation conference hosted by Yellow Wellies at Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

Yellow Wellies manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “There couldn’t have been a better way for us to celebrate 10 years of challenging and changing behaviours to risk-taking and poor mental health in our sector.”

Changing attitudes

Bringing together 120 people from across the UK and Ireland to and debate topics that people would have shied away from ten years ago showed that behaviours and attitudes to safety and well-being were starting to change.

“The fact that there are initiatives that are working – and the fact that government, the farming unions, retailers and key farming organisations are willing to sit down and explore a way forward – is something to be truly optimistic about.”

Some 95% of farmers under the age of 40 agree that poor mental health is one of the biggest hidden dangers facing the industry today – with 90% agreeing there is a direct link between mental health and farm safety.

Child safety

Children account for 5% of all farm fatalities – including while playing in farmyards or falling from moving tractors. Farming advocate Joe Stanley described the fatality as a shocking mark on our industry’s conscience.

Mr Stanley added: “We need to be calling out incidences of bad practice when we see them. We have to make it socially unacceptable to be doing what are clearly dangerous practices.”

Chairman of Yellow Wellies trustees James Chapman used the conference to call on attendees to make the day a turning point. He emphasised the need to have meaningful conversations and collaboratively explore the way forward.

Defra farm minister Mark Spencer, who also attended the event, said: “There is no doubt that farming is often not an easy job with long hours in remote rural areas and I am pleased to see the growing awareness in recent years of farming mental health.”