Health & Safety

Published 1 September 10


Workplace health and safety

Agriculture has long been recognised as one of the most hazardous industries, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) citing the agricultural sector as being responsible for between 15% and 20% of fatalities to workers each year, despite less than 1.5% of the population being employed in the sector. Agriculture has the highest fatal industry rate of any sector and has a rate of self-reported illness higher than the average for all industries. The self-employed and children on farms are also identified as being at particularly high risk of death or injury.

Employers are duty bound to protect the health and safety of all individuals on their business premises as well as the people who work for them, as defined by The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This includes full-time and part-time employees, self-employed workers and contractors, casual workers, and trainees, in addition to any customers or other members of the public who may be involved with work activities.

In general, employers are legally bound to:

  • Take out Employer's Liability Compulsory Insurance and display the certificate of insurance where staff can see it.
  • Appoint someone competent to help them meet their health and safety duties. This could be the owner of the business, a staff member or a third party.
  • Have some form of health and safety policy, perform risk assessments (®see here for examples of risk assessments) and comply with Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) operating procedures.
  • Provide basic welfare facilities, such as toilets and washing facilities.
  • Provide appropriate health and safety training and suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) free of charge, and supervise employees' work to ensure they are working safely.
  • Display the Health and Safety law poster or provide employees with a leaflet detailing the same information.
  • Ensure machinery and equipment is safe to use.
  • Consult employees on anything that could significantly affect their health and safety at work.

Personal Protective Equipment should only be necessary where any other means of avoiding potential risks has been discounted, and is intended to protect against a variety of risks:

  • Eye protection, such as goggles.
  • Head protection, such as safety hats.
  • Protection from dust provided by for example dust masks.
  • Bodily protection from bad weather, dirty tasks or chemical exposure such as overalls or wet weather clothing.
  • Protection of limbs (for example gloves and safety boots).

Employers must ensure the correct selection and proper use of PPE, as well as correct storage and maintenance. Any training on the use of PPE must be provided and it must fit well. Any PPE should be made to an appropriate standard and must be CE marked.

There is also legislation covering the maximum level of exposure to noise and the provision of equipment to protect workers' hearing.

The HSE provides advice and self-assessment methods to help farmers improve aspects of health and safety on farms, particularly with regard to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) and any other legislation which may apply to them. Risk Assessments are the recognised means of managing health and safety in the workplace, by identifying a hazard, whom it is likely to affect, the risk of that hazard occurring and any control measures that can be put into place to eliminate or minimise the hazard.