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Blog: Three deaths highlight risks for older workers

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Tom Price is the NFU’s farm safety and transport adviser. He writes:

Three recent accidents serve as a reminder that safety on farm remains an important issue for all those in the industry.

On 1 May a farmer in Scotland was killed in a cattle-related accident. On 2 May a farmer suffered fatal injuries when a section of the tree he was working on fell and crushed his tractor. On 9 May a person fell from the open edge of a mezzanine floor in Somerset.

The accidents occurred in different sectors, in different parts of the country and in different circumstances. However one common factor in all three accidents is age. All the victims were aged 65 or over.

The risk to older people in the farming industry is not a new thing. Over the past 10 years 30% of fatal accidents in agriculture occurred to people aged 65 plus.

It is very common for people over the normal retirement age to continue in active roles in farming businesses. The wealth of knowledge and experience that older famers possess is invaluable for the industry but at the same time it must be recognised that a decline in agility and resilience is inevitable with advancing years and needs to be taken into account.

One way to make sure that older people can continue to work in the industry and for their knowledge and experience to be utilised and passed on is to manage the risk that working beyond the state retirement age might bring.

The starting point is to look critically at the business and to conduct a thorough risk assessment. A risk assessment need not be a difficult exercise – it is a case of thinking about what might cause harm to people and then taking reasonable steps to prevent the harm.

An example of a risk is lone working. Ways to manage this risk might include:

  • Letting other people know when and where a person might be working alone
  • Keeping in touch by mobile or two-way radio
  • Agreeing times to report back in

All fatal accidents are tragic and the goal must be to reduce the number. A first step in achieving that goal is to identify and manage risk.

The HSE has information about risk management, including a risk assessment template, available here.

NFU members can get advice from CallFirst on 0370 845 845


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