Farm Safety Week 2016 Day 7 - Emergencies & farm safety plans – What next?

11 July 2016

Farm safety week logo

As last year, IOSH Rural Industries Group decided to extend the very successful #farmsafetyweek campaign into the weekend, on the premise that farming is a 24/7 occupation. Today is the last day… but it is the day when our colleagues in RIG and farmers alike say they have a chance to catch up with their emails!  [I know I do!]

We have to be realistic and expect that incidents and emergency situations will arise – regardless of all the ‘safe systems of work’, ‘method statements’, training, and guidance that might be available. It is therefore important to establish systems and ensure you have the skills necessary to deal with farm accidents and, if necessary, save a life in an emergency.

Last year’s final Farm Safety Week article ‘How to save a life in an emergency’ still rings true and contains links to relevant guidance, so please take 5 minutes to read it again!

It referred to an excellent and very comprehensive article in Farmers Weekly, published on-line on 25 November 2014, entitled “Farm accidents: How to save a life in an emergency” and which covered all the necessary elements, including:

  • Dealing with Injuries.
  • What to do in an emergency.
  • Getting help
  • Making sure you have all the necessary information to inform the emergency services, etc.


A more recent article published in Farmers Weekly (10 June 2016, pp56-57)  helpfully outlined a ‘Safety Induction Checklist. It is approaching that time of year when many students and other temporary workers descend on farms for harvest, and adequate and timely induction training is particularly important when new (and often inexperienced) workers will be pushing themselves hard in terms of effort and hours working. This included emergency procedures. [Unfortunately, FW’s article is only available on line for subscribers. ]

Another recent Farmers Weekly article highlighted fatigue as a hazard during harvest.

ATV/Shotgun Case study

The Farm Safety Week case study involving a shotgun accident used in England on the 4th day to highlight Transport-related hazards also emphasised the need for planning for lone working and emergency procedures.

Mark Mather was 24 when he suffered a shotgun blast to the leg while working on the 2,500-acre mixed arable and livestock farm in June 2008.  He had been involved with the family business from his late teens and had completed a business course before leaving school to prepare him for the financial side of farming. His account shows how easy it is for things to go wrong – and how lucky some people are to survive.

While ploughing a field Mark noticed that the barley crop in the next field was being plundered by crows. He returned to the field in the early evening on his quad bike, carrying his double-barrelled shotgun across his lap. It was loaded, but the safety catch was on……. [So he thought it was safe.]

After taking a couple of shots, he moved on to another field. As he turned into the field, the battery powering the ‘twitcher’ (a decoy device to attract crows, mounted on the front rack) moved slightly and he leaned forward to secure it. As a result, the vehicle veered onto a slight bank and overturned, hitting the butt of the shotgun which went off, firing both barrels into his right leg.

Mark was conscious, in great pain and losing a lot of blood, but he couldn’t get up and couldn’t call for help because the battery in his mobile phone was flat.  Luckily, his father coincidentally received a message to say that some sheep had escaped and the search for the sheep led him to where Mark was lying beneath the quad.

He was airlifted to hospital but despite surgeons operating on him throughout the night, they were forced to amputate his leg at the thigh to save his life. Mark endured four or five further operations every other day during the following weeks.

The impact on Mark’s life and the farm business was immense. He was unable to work for over a year and on his return to work still suffered pain and weakness. But the consequences of this tragic accident did not stop there. The accident also put the family and the farm under major financial strain.

“Neighbours were very good and came in to do the silage for us,” explains Mark. “My father visited me in hospital every day and so his work time was lost. He had to hire in extra help during the considerable length of time I was unable to work. Because my injury is so severe it means there are certain aspects of the work I can no longer do. I have lost a lot of mobility and working with livestock is no longer possible. We have had to buy a specially adapted tractor which has been fitted with a left foot accelerator and I have a similarly adapted car and 4x4 vehicle.

“It has hit my parents very hard. My Dad did not go shooting at all that year, which is something that he would normally enjoy.”  The 31-year-old admits: "My accident not only put safety awareness to the fore on our own farm but on surrounding farms when friends and neighbours heard about it. I am prepared to talk about what happened to me if it helps prevent others suffering this kind of incident. My advice is to think twice before you start a job."

Ed Ford, NFYFC added: “Mark’s advice to think twice and use your common sense is something that we should all take away from this story. Unfortunately most farm safety issues are commonplace but they aren’t common practice and this is why initiatives like Farm Safety Week are so important. Bringing the whole industry together, for even one week each year, to share a common message means that we are doing something to address this poor safety record.

“Mark is a very brave man. His experience demonstrates that the fallout from a farming accident is broader than you might think. As well as the victim’s pain and suffering; there can be a significant economic cost to the farm. This is why this year Farm Safety Week is urging farmers to consider “Who would fill your boots?” if they were to be affected by a serious injury.”

This incident also emphasises the need to establish a ‘Lone Worker’ policy. At its simplest this can be based on having set ‘check-in’ times, when farm staff/families get in touch to reassure they are ‘OK’. This was suggested by one of the recent winners in the regular Farmers Weekly ‘Readers Safety Tip' competition (see edition 13.5.16, p17) . [nb. A future RIG article and possibly a webinar are proposed on this topic.]

112 Emergency SMS texts

From RIG’s Networking Events and our involvement at Shows, it is apparent that there is still a widespread lack of awareness of this vital potentially life-saving system, so RIG is still keen to promote the fact that it is possible to send a text to the Emergency Services using 112 – a text CAN get through to 112, even when there is a poor mobile phone signal.  [112 is the Europe-wide emergency number and is also many non-European countries.]

The excellent film ‘Help Me – the secrets of using 112 on a mobile phone in an emergency / accident’ describes how to improve your mobile phone reception and how to register your mobile phone number for the 112 SMS service – ie by texting  ‘register’ (all lower case) to 999 - then reply ‘yes’ when asked to confirm.

A more detailed explanation of Emergency Procedures and how to register to use SMS 112 texts is on RIGs Resources page.

We also believe that the Forestry Industry Safety Accord (FISA) leaflet FISA 802 Emergency Planning provides useful advice relevant for any work activity in remote locations.

Farm Safety Planning – Other Sources of Guidance

During Farm Safety Week we have highlighted guidance from a range of sources, including Ireland, to help give a different perspective and alternative ways of conveying ‘the same old messages’. 

There are plenty of other international sources to look at for inspiration and ideas for something different. Some examples flagged up by others (eg on Twitter!) during the past Week, include:

  • How to create a farm safety kit’ – Suggested by the NFU, this link to the ‘Farm and’ website in USA, which includes guidance on producing a farm safety kit to handle a major trauma. This webpage in turn provides links to other useful information from Ohio and Iowa State’s Extension Services on
  • How to create a farm safety plan and farm safety videos highlighting the importance of wearing seat belts on tractors and the effects of fatigue in causing accidents.
  • ‘Keep Safe, Keep Farming - How to be healthy and safe on farm’ - produced by Work Safe, New Zealand to help NZ farmers identify, manage and communicate health and safety risks, to family, workers, and other people. Their ‘Saferfarms’ website includes guides covering key points and particular topics, identifying common hazards and suggests appropriate controls. Of particular interest, it highlights practical tips on ‘how to make it work’, together with an on-line planning tool, and provides guidance an aspects such as:
    • writing down your actions in the farm diary,
    • having clear ‘farm rules’,
    • producing a hazard map [nb This is an easy and useful way of  communicating the layout of a farm and pointing out where hazards are located, as well as to help communicate and aid discussion about how risks can be managed.]
    • emergency plan,
    • training register,
    • maintenance record,
    • a contractor ‘orientation checklist’, and an
    • injury, incident and near-miss report.

WorksafeBC - This ‘WorkSafe’ is in British Columbia, Canada - a provincial agency ‘dedicated to promoting safe and healthy workplaces across BC’. They partner with workers and employers to help them comply with the States’ Occupational Health and Safety Regulation and Workers Compensation Act. Their services include education, prevention, compensation and support for injured workers, as well as no-fault insurance. They have produced an Agriculture Safety Checklist and an excellent series of practical guides and films  , including accident re-enactments using computer simulations and actual footage  – useful for short presentations to staff.

And finally….

Be Alert – Be Alerted?

Alan Plom (RIG Vice Chair and Communications Coordinator says:  Another way to have been alerted to the ‘stories’ [sadly, not works of fiction!] that were featured during #FarmSafetyWeek -  or other information being promoted by other organisations at any time - is via Twitter.  So if you haven’t signed up yet, do it now.  You don’t have to be a ‘Stephen Fry’ and be twittering all the time…. You can just let the information and updates come to you and read.

IOSH RIG is also keen to encourage our members to sign up to LinkedIn if they are not already  - this is another way that individuals can communicate –and we hope to set up  specific ‘interest groups’ to enable and encourage discussion amongst our members.

See also the ‘Timely Reminders’ posted each month on the Farm Safety Partnership’s website.

Keep #FarmSafetyWeek twittering! Sign up NOW!

What next? See the final Top Tip.