Tech-savvy ‘safety champions’ can help reduce farm deaths, says agricultural lawyer

Agricultural lawyer David Kirwan believes tech-savvy farmers can lead a ‘learning revolution’ to promote safety after it was revealed 30 workers died in accidents over the last 12 months.

Figures for 2016/17 from the Health and Safety Executive confirmed agriculture is the UK’s riskiest industry sector - with older workers most at risk. Almost half of the farming deaths were over-65s and 85% were over-45s.

Fatality rates in farming have shown little sign of reducing over 35 years, suggesting safety messages are not getting through or that farm workers are knowingly taking risks, says the HSE.

Mr Kirwan, managing partner of North West law firm Kirwans and a specialist in agricultural law, believes that use of technology - especially among younger people - could be key when it comes to access to safety information.

Mr Kirwan said: “Sadly I have been involved in many cases of farming accidents. Mostly they are avoidable which makes the tragedy more devastating for loved ones.

“Safety is never a cost worth cutting. While I have genuine sympathy for farmers who can be overwhelmed by regulatory requirements, safety is a priority for everyone.

“To reduce risks we must promote an effective, engaging way of communicating advice. Having worked with farming communities for decades I know how much families value each other’s support.

“Often advice is handed down through generations but the industry may need to consider safety advice being handed up by younger farm workers to help cut the number of deaths and life-changing injuries.

“The internet offers excellent resources at no or little cost via reputable organisations such as farming unions, the Farm Safety Partnership and the Health and Safety Executive. The HSE also hold awareness days tackling topics such as farming hazards.

“They may lack the experience of their elders, but by empowering our tech-savvy younger people as safety champions they can lead the learning revolution to create a culture change at grassroots.”

Professional support is often needed to meet the increasing regulatory framework that is placed upon the farming community. Workplace safety has additional importance for agricultural employers who can face ruin if they flout statutory obligations, added Mr Kirwan.

As Featured In: Entirely North West; Entirely Tech; Farming UK; B Daily

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