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Health and safety ‘disgrace’


“It is disgraceful that fifty three people died in agricultural accidents last year,” Bill Callaghan, Chair of the Health and Safety Commission, said yesterday, as he called for everyone in the industry to do more to prevent the tragic loss of life.

Mr Callaghan was speaking after a two day fact-finding mission into agriculture. He and other Commissioners spent a day visiting farms with HSE agricultural inspectors to discuss the issues with farmers and their workers firsthand. They later met with key stakeholders from the industry, including the Transport and General Workers Union, the National Farmers Union and training organisation Lantra, before holding a special meeting of the Health and Safety Commission at the National Agriculture Centre, the Royal Agricultural Society’s Headquarters at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

Mr Callaghan said: “For many years agriculture has been one of the most dangerous industries in Britain. The sharp increase in deaths last year – from 44 to 53 – shows that the industry is simply not doing enough to prevent this tragic loss of life.

“These accidents have familiar causes. Many involve people being struck by a moving vehicle or falling from heights, particularly through fragile roofs. They are preventable if those involved ensure they plan work carefully, provide proper training and use the right equipment for the right job.

“I am also very concerned about the four children killed last year – three of those were under primary school age.”

Mr Callaghan added that the ill health of agricultural workers was also a cause of concern with many suffering from musculoskeletal disorders and asthma.

“The Commission had identified agriculture as one of its priority programmes under the Revitalising Health and Safety initiative. We will be targeting our inspections, producing new guidance and carrying out research into best practice solutions.

“We will also be raising the profile of occupational health in farming. This Thursday, for example, (October 11), a conference will bring together employer and union representatives, trade and professional bodies, industry support groups, government policy makers and occupational health and primary health care professionals, to take a broader and more inclusive look at how work related ill-health in agriculture is tackled.

“Pilot projects are being proposed to reduce the incidence of ill health in the industry concentrating particularly on occupational asthma from twice the national average and to reduce musculoskeletal disorders (especially knee or hip complaints and bad backs) which affect four out of five agricultural employees during their working lives.”

Mr Callaghan concluded: “The Commission’s is giving top priority to agriculture. I now call on all those involved in farming to put improving health and safety at the top of their list of priorities. Organisations representing farmers, contractors and employees have a key leading role.”

Reminder from HR Zone:
Next week, (commencing 15th October), is the start of the European Week for Safety and Health at Work 2001.

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