Common farming accidents


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Although often depicted in popular culture as a seemingly harmless way to pursue a living (often courtesy of monochrome footage of aging landowners working their crops at almost pedestrian pace), the fact of the matter here in the 21st Century is overwhelmingly different.

Today farming is considered one of the most risk-associated occupations in which to forge a career out of, a notion readily backed up by statistics which paint an altogether fuller picture than what you might have grown up believing.

Despite the industry accounting for less than 2% of the UK’s workforce, some 16% of fatal accidents in the workplace are attributed to farming. So as you can see modern farming is a little less like ‘Heartbeat’ and a little more like ‘Holby City’.

In fact, various reports reliably inform that agriculture suffers one of the worst fatal accident and occupational ill-health records of any of the predominant employment sectors, with the Health and Safety Executive having published damning figures to support this claim.

Figures which purport to 49 people on average being killed every year in the agricultural industry. Or to look at it another way, this equates to nearly one person losing their lives as a result of a farming accident every week. Of course, it’s not solely those employed in the sector who find themselves facing potential injury neither, as ancillary workers and even members of the general public can just as easily succumb to life-threatening situations unfolding in or around agricultural environments.

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What are the biggest threats to the health and wellbeing of farm workers?

Well, according to authoritative records and respected statistic-gathering there are any number of instances whereby farm employees’ health and safety could potentially be significantly compromised. If that is, thorough risk assessments haven’t been both carried out and strictly adhered to.

We’re talking about a raft of possible accidents involving farm vehicles, machinery (moving and stationary), injuries brought about by falling objects or individuals themselves falling from heights (and often into silos, slurry pits and stores) as well as ones which have been impacted by exposure to chemicals and other hazardous substances. And then there’s accidents which are instigated by livestock and a catalogue of illnesses which can manifest over a more prolonged and routinely sustained passage of time having inhaling, ingesting or simply being a captive audience to various elements; such as illnesses caused by high levels of noise, vibrating farm tools and exposure to dust.

To afford you a more specific idea (and to expand on some of those instances hinted above), please note the following;

Farm vehicle and machinery accidents

There are an array of vehicles and mechanical equipment usedon a farm at any one time, from the more conventional tractors and trailers through to combine harvesters, forklifts, bailing machines and even otherwise unassuming 4x4s. Any and all of which could cause an injury depending on situation and usage.

Ranging from whiplash at one end of the scale to the loss of limbs in the more extreme cases, vehicles used in agricultural settings are dangerous pieces of equipment and should always be viewed and treated as such.

What’s more, many items of machinery operated or agricultural reasons and ends often possess exposed blades in order to achieve their purpose, whilst wheels, transmission belts and other integral components also have tendencies to be unprotected and therefore can lead to injuries if not approached with the necessary caution.

Falls from height

There are a never-ending list of chores to complete on your typical farm (and worked land/estate), with many of the tasks requiring the scaling of heights so as to achieve the ultimate aim.

To help illustrate the point, performing acts of tree surgery or filling a Dutch barn with hay bales are just two endeavours which spring to mind on this subject.

Both of which occupationally hazardous scenarios run the risk of injury to those involved, as does the repairing of broken or damaged roofs on agricultural premises and outbuildings. Ergo it’s imperative that risk assessments are carried out before embarking on such tasks and that the correct ladders (and safety equipment)are provided and used.

Falling objects

And then there’s the possibility of being struck by falling objects which can easily dislodge and subsequently detach themselves from an elevated position without any forewarning to those standing beneath.

The aforementioned hay bales are heavier than they appear and have been known to cause serious injury, while there are a variety of other examples of falling objects which are habitually located in agricultural environs that can cause injury, including timber or collapsing buildings as a point in question.

Inadvertent exposure to potentially harmful chemicals

Some farmers may as well work in petro-chemical plants, given the volume of dangerous substances and compounds they routinely work amongst in their line of duty.

Dust particles which come courtesy of asbestos, pesticides and mouldy crops pose significant health threats, more especially in the longer term, with reports of asthma, farmer’s lung and/or asbestos-related illnesses and diseases of the respiratory system said to be on the increase.

Losing footing while working around dangerous substances

One of the most precarious parts of a farm an agricultural worker can be employed is near to the slurry pit and grain silos, whilst milking parlours situated in dairy farms aren’t exactly without their own problems in the unfortunate event of things taking an unexpected turn for the worse.

With regards to the former though, and it won’t surprise many to learn that farm workers can die as a direct result of drowning (or by means of asphyxiation) should they fall into a slurry pit or silo.

Slurry pits also comprise of toxic chemicals and consequently emit harmful fumes the majority of the time, which is why it’s vital agricultural policy that those tasked with working in the vicinity of them are provided with dedicated health and safety training, together with the distribution of specialist PPE (personal protective equipment).

Noise pollution

Unsurprisingly agricultural environments tend, historically to produce a large degree of noise, whether it stems from equipment or machinery, with decibels in certain types of farm often exceeding what’s accepted as within the parameters of safety.

With this in mind it’s essential that workers are afforded ear defenders (and any other specialised PPE recommended) so as to guard (literally AND physically) against the very real prospect of tinnitus or more permanent hearing loss; again something which manifests over a period of time rather than overnight.

Injuries caused by tool use

Agricultural occupations often require the frequent use of a selection of tools which can, eventually, cause a medical condition colloquially referred to as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Imagine the situation whereby you’re instructed to use chainsaws, brush cutters, grinders and/or power drills on a regular basis and you’ll quickly understand why this condition may emerge and ultimately be diagnosed by a health professional further down the line.

Recognising the symptoms of HAVS, and normally sufferers complain of anything from numbness in the fingers and muscle weakness to a range of aches and pains consistent with repetitive strain injuries as the conditions cited have a recurrent tendency to affect both vascular and musculoskeletal areas of the anatomy.

Beware of the livestock!

And don’t forget the herds and livestock particular to the agricultural line in which you work themselves; either individually or collectively for that matter; not least because some 8% of ALL farm-related accidents happen to be associated with sizeable, dangerous livestock. Which anyone who’s ever been kicked by a cow will attest.

Safe to say working in close company to bovines within milking parlours is one area which is typically fraught with potential danger.

Are there ways farm workers can avoid suffering farm-related injuries?

Beneath is a check-list of preventative actions, steps and measures farm workers can adopt to lessen the likelihood of them falling victim to an injury;

  • ALWAYS don footwear which possess slip-resistant tread or heels, be they wellington boots or specialist shoes necessitated for a specific role
  • ENSURE that all tools (and other items) are put away once they’re finished with/at the end of the day/shift, as this prevents them becoming trip hazards
  • ALWAYS clean spills immediately, irrespective of whose responsibility it’s perceived to be (including oil, mud, water, manure, etc)
  • Be AWARE that tractors/combine harvesters (and various mechanical platforms) can be even more hazardous places to be if and when they collate spills or debris
  • ALWAYS check farm equipment prior to use. Not only machinery and vehicles (which incidentally should be properly maintained regardless), but also less obvious things like ladders, platforms, ropes, chains and harnesses
  • ALWAYS ensure that employers/operators provide the right (and appropriate) equipment for farm work
  • ENSURE that a harness is facilitated whenever working at height to limit the physical effect of a fall
  • ENSURE that all workers (and visitors) who are in potentially hazardous agricultural areas are made aware of this by educating/ training them of the dangers that they face when they work (or visit) a farm. This especially includes more seasonal or student farm workers
  • ENSURE that agricultural employees make proper use of hand and grab rails at all times

How to make a farm accident injury compensation claim

Naturally the very first action you should take if injured on a farm is to call the emergency services (or ensure that a witness to the accident does) and get transported to the nearest hospital. But assuming you’ve done that and are now well on the road to recovery, you’ll have an officially record of injury given to you by the hospital on your admission which stands as proof that your injury required medical care/hospitalisation. Which is vitally important when you decide to pursue a claim for personal injury via a dedicated claims solicitor or specialist in this area of expertise.

Also you should make sure that details of the injury – cause and effect included – are duly noted in the accident report book, which every farm is supposed to keep on the premises.

Medical documents and a copy of the accident report in the farm record book can be used as crucial evidence to support your farming accident claim and will help your legal/personal injury claims representative/team build a strong case in your favour.

Both of these factors will also help determine the amount of compensation you are awarded. Just bear in mind that there are time restrictions imposed on claim-making, so it’s important to seek advice from the relevant personal injury parties ASAP.

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