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Farm Safety Week Aims to Support Scottish Farmers

LISTEN: Stephanie Berkeley lays out some of the differences farms can make to improve lives

The issues facing farmers in Highland Perthshire are being brought to the forefront this week as part of the Farm Safety Foundation’s Farm Safety Week.

Farm Safety Week 2021 aims to reduce the number of incidents that continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK with new figures revealing that fatalities on farms have doubled in the last year.

Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, Stephanie Berkeley, said:

“The Farm Safety Foundation is a small charity so when I say small, there’s only three of us.

“We cover the whole of the UK, and we use training, we use research, we use campaigns like this week’s farm safety week to raise awareness of the importance of protecting and preserving not just the physical but also the mental wellbeing of the next generation of farmers.

“We’re actually all mental health first aid trained – all three of us – it’s really really important because physical and mental wellbeing need to get equal airtime.

“We’re losing far too many people in terms of farm accidents as today’s HSE report will have highlighted but also the amount of people that we lose in the industry to suicide is also very very frightening.

“It’s really important to think that actually if you’re not in the right headspace when you’re approaching a farming job it’s not the machine, it’s not the vehicle that’s dangerous it’s actually you and that can have life-changing and potentially life-ending consequences.

“Long hours, intense physical labour, low pay at the mercy of the elements – I mean who’d be a farmer these days? But actually, nearly half a million people work in that industry.

A new and welcome addition to ensuring safety – especially in rural communities – is the What3Words app which allows emergency services to locate you using three keywords wherever you are in the world.

Whilst times and technologies have evolved, the ever-present issues facing farmers have not changed in the last 60 years, says Stephanie, however, there is one new issue that has contributed to accidents and fatalities on farms – the introduction of quad bike or ATV use.

Stephanie added:

“The thing that we’re trying to highlight this week is that there is a risk each and every day that you approach the job.

“The reasons for farmers losing their lives over the last 60 years has not changed let’s be very clear about that – it’s the same things – working at height, working with livestock, moving vehicles, things like that – they just haven’t changed.

“The only new thing actually is the advent of the quad bike or the ATV and unfortunately in Scotland, there have been 3 deaths as a result of people working with ATVs in the last year out of a total of 6 in the whole of GB.

“It’s really something we need to be talking about, especially in the Highland Perthshire area because you’re so geographically distributed. You’re not right next door to the person that might be able to help you if you have an accident so really, it’s your health, your safety, and your choice.

“We do risk assessments every day. We will not walk in front of a bus if we want to cross the road – that’s a risk assessment. You’re not going to make yourself a cup of tea and drink it straight away because you know you’ll burn the roof of your mouth, that’s a risk assessment so why aren’t we doing them when we’re dealing with those large machines? When we’re jumping on a quad bike?

“Research recently by the University of Aberdeen into the use of quad bikes and helmets and 64% of people surveyed said they owned a helmet but only 21% of them said that they always wear it and actually 43% of the people who answered said that they never wear their helmet so if this is something that’s going to keep you safe, why aren’t you using it?

The foundation has created a new video, sure to touch the hearts of any viewer and hopefully resonate with farmers as to how integral risk assessments can be in their working day.

In Highland Perthshire, we are blessed with beautiful surroundings and the temptation is high to wander through a field on our evening walk but safety extends to local residents as well as farmers.

Stephanie continued:

“We have to have a level of respect that this is actually a farmers business so where we’re taking our dog for a walk for example and many of us have gotten new dogs throughout lockdown taking them out into the countryside does us the world of good for our own mental health but also understanding that looking at a really pretty field, that is somebody’s livelihood.

“The crops that they’re growing there belong to somebody and they have to make money so don’t damage it and don’t walk in areas that don’t have a designated footpath.

“If you’re with your dog make sure they stay on the lead. It’s very tempting to let them off the lead but certainly don’t ever do that when there are livestock in the field.

“It’s really important to be aware to please lift up your dog’s business if they do that because unfortunately there are parasites in dog faeces that can cause a pregnant cow to abort.

“It’s really important to make themselves aware of the countryside code.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code is available online and can be found at: https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/

This week will also see resources available on the Farm Safety Foundations website at: https://www.yellowwellies.org/

Stephanie concluded:

“Think about it from a farmer’s point of view what your responsibilities are but also from a walker’s point of view and a visitor’s point of view, how you need to understand what the land is being used for and how to protect yourself and how to respect it.”

You can participate in Farm Safety Week by using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek and by following the Farm Safety Foundation online @yellowwelliesuk.

The #FarmSafetyWeek webinar takes place today Tuesday, 20th July from 11-11.30am and you can register for a place at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fatigue-in-farming-what-we-know-about-it-and-what-you-can-do-to-manage-it-tickets-161767257221

To download the What3words app, please visit: https://what3words.com/products/what3words-app/ for links to download and support.

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