Fruit farm prosecution highlights important safety issues

Following the prosecution of a fruit farming company last week, the British
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is using the case to emphasise a number of
important safety issues to employers in the agriculture sector. These include:

  • ensuring workers are properly trained;
  • the need to carry out a risk assessment; and
  • checking that machinery is suitable for the purpose for which it is being

The prosecution followed HSE's investigation into the deaths of two Polish
workers who became entangled in farm machinery used to coil rope. The company
specialises in the commercial cultivation of fruit, predominantly strawberries
and raspberries. This involves the erection and dismantling of 'polytunnels',
which are secured with long lengths of rope. The two men, 27 and 21-year-old,
died after they became entangled between rope and a rotating shaft. They were
using a tractor-mounted fleece winder machine, which was not suitable for rope
winding as it did not have an automatic cut off in the event of entanglement.
Also, they had not been adequately trained, nor made aware of the dangers posed
by the task.

The farming industry has one of the highest accident rates in the country.
Farmers must ensure they take into account how machines should be operated when
deciding safe working practices and if they want to use a machine for a purpose
for which it was not designed, they should check with the manufacturer before
doing so. Farmers must also ensure that workers are trained for the tasks they
are asked to do and made aware of any dangers. This case also highlights the
necessity of carrying out a proper risk assessment, which would have shown the
serious risk of entanglement.

HSE has developed a free interactive software to help farmers carry out a
comprehensive health and safety assessment of their farms and to raise the
levels of health and safety awareness in the industry. It is aimed at all
farmers (regardless of whether you employ anyone) and farm managers who are
responsible for health and safety.

Features of the self-assessment software include:

  • a downloadable application which can be installed on your computer and
    completed off-line at your leisure;
  • a configuration screen that tailors the questions to those which are relevant
    to your farm;
  • a series of questions on key health and safety topics;
  • a benchmark for each question of the minimum standards which you should be
    reaching to comply with legal requirements and the reasoning behind it;
  • the ability to order relevant free HSE guidance;
  • a facility for you to add additional risks to your assessment on
    issues/hazards which are either not covered by the questions or which are
    unique to your farm;
  • a facility to allow separate assessments to be produced if you have more than
    one farm/holding;
  • outputs in the form of a prioritised list of identified actions;
  • an optional facility to submit your completed assessment to HSE for

Further Information

AplusA-online.de - Source: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work