Back to the Future (Part II) HSE's 'Innovation Plan'

01 February 2016

It was good to see that ‘agriculture’ at least got a mention in the first printed edition of the new IOSH Magazine Feb 2016 p16. A digital control panel of a robotic milking parlour was used to illustrate the article about the consultation on HSE’s new ‘Innovation Plan’.

This article went on to describe how HSE is adjusting to technological changes in business and their draft Plan cites research “to reveal how use of mature technologies such as robotics and remotely controlled work equipment in factories, that have already been implemented in other sectors, can be successfully applied to agriculture.”

RIG welcomes this, although we recently posted a rather pessimistic view of the 'future of agricultural safety' written by RIG’s Vice Chair Alan Plom for the final (Dec 2015, p38) edition of ‘Safety and Health Practitioner’ (SHP) published as the IOSH journal.  Alan’s ‘blog’ “Back to the Future” and the predictions of other ‘experts’ can also still be read via SHP Online.

In his role as Chair of the Farm Safety Partnership’s ‘Transport & Machinery Safety Group’, Alan acknowledges that farming is already an ‘industry leader’ in terms of accuracy and using auto-steer systems, etc. However, this technology has led to unfortunate incidents too, eg combine harvesters (being driven by their operators on ‘mental auto-pilot’) hitting poles in fields, pulling down power lines.  This suggests more should be done to prevent contacts with overhead power lines by technological developments, such as linking GPS mapping to vehicle hydraulic control systems. 

Another obvious area ripe for ‘technological improvement’ is cleaning machines or clearing blockages, particularly in adverse conditions in the field. The fact that incidents continue to occur whilst operators are cleaning machines such as potato harvesters under power is ‘foreseable’ [as defined in the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations] and suggests that manufacturers (and employers) cannot continue to rely on their operation manuals/instructions, current training and guarding methods alone.

HSE is required to produce its 'Innovation Plan' by March 2016. If you missed the short consultation period (which only ran from 11 to 31 January) and this article has stimulated you to think and come up with any suggestions on how to improve safety (and health) within rural industries, we will be happy to pass these on through RIG’s direct contacts with HSE and the national Farm Safety Partnerships.

Also, if you attended any of HSE’s recent series of ‘Health and Safety Strategy’ events*  [#Help GB Work Well] or commented on the HSE 'Innovation Plan' before the 31 January deadline, please let us know what you said, via RIG’s Consultation Coordinator, Gillian Littlewood at: . Thank you.

PS. *Incidentally, Mark Smith, from NFU Mutual’s Risk Management Services, was spotted in an HSE interview recorded at the event in York.