Understanding risk management

18 July 2021

Farm business Farm safety

Managing risk on farm is the focus of Farm safety week 2021. We've been working with the Farm Safety Foundation to raise awareness of this vital subject. Identifying issues, assessing the risk, making a plan and documenting what you do is at the heart of keeping workers safe, Tom Price NFU Policy Adviser, summaries key points for us.

What is risk management?

All work on farm has some risk attached to it and any farm business must:

  • identify what could cause injury and illness in the business – look for the hazards
  • work out how likely that someone could be harmed and how seriously – the risk
  • take action to eliminate the hazard – the thing that could go wrong or, if that is not, possible control the risk.

For many farming businesses, the steps needed will be fairy straight forward.

How do I identify hazards?

Look around the workplace and think about what might cause harm – these are the hazards. Some things to think about are:

  • How people work and how machines and equipment used
  • Chemicals, pesticides, and other substances used
  • Safe or unsafe work practices
  • The general condition of the farm

For each hazard identified, think about how employees, contractors, visitors, members of the public and family might be harmed.

How do I assess the risks?

After identifying the hazards, decide how likely it is that someone could be harmed and how serious it could be. Decide:

  • who might be harmed and how?
  • what is being done already to control the risks
  • who needs to carry out the action?
  • when the action is needed by.

How do I control the risks?

Look at what is being done already and the controls that are in place. Think:

  • can I get rid of the hazard altogether? If not,
  • how can the risks be controlled so that harm is unlikely?

If more controls are needed think about:

  • re-designing the job
  • replacing the materials, machinery, or process
  • reorganising work to reduce exposure to any hazardous machinery, materials, or process
  • what practical measures can be implemented to work safely
  • what personal protective material is needed and how you will make sure it is used.

Not all risks can be removed but, as farmers, you need to do everything that is reasonably practicable to protect yourself and others from harm. This means balancing the level of risk against measures needed to control the risk in terms of time, money, or trouble.

Write things down

It is always a good idea to write down and record actions you have taken to make your workplace a safe and good place for workers, visitors, and others. Under health and safety law, it is a legal requirement to record significant findings if five or more persons are employed including:

  • the hazards – the things that might cause harm
  • who might be harmed and how?
  • what is being done to control the risks.

Remember, for health and safety purposes, family working on farm will be counted as employees and taking family into account could mean that you do have five employees or more as part of your farming business.

Do I need to check how controls are working?

Yes – controls you have put in place to make the workplace safe must be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure that are working and also if there is a change in staff, processes or materials and equipment used.

Are there templates I can use to help me?

Yes, there are generic templates available on the HSE website Managing risks and risk assessment at work.

For more information

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