Reducing the risk of accidents for farm contractors


Surveyor Daryl Robinson highlights how farmers can keep contractors as safe as possible when they are working on their farms and businesses.

Farming is a seasonal business and contractors may be used for a variety of reasons. Contractors can help boost the workforce of farms and business across the South West, particularly during busy periods.

Agriculture, sadly, is the most dangerous industry with the highest fatal accident rate of any sector in the UK, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).Farmers have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of any workers, employees and visitors to their land. This includes any contractors working on the farm.

Contractors often perform the most hazardous jobs, such as cleaning slurry pits and repairing fragile roofs. So it’s important that farmers know exactly what contractors will be doing, and how tasks will be undertaken.

Our Members should follow a number of steps to reduce the risk of accidents among contractors.

Select competent contractors

The contractor should have a good local reputation with suitable certifications. Make sure you ask to see these certificates before they carry out any work.

Contractors should also carry out effective risk assessments relevant to your farm activities and prove they have an acceptable attitude to farm safety. Risk assessments are important, they allow contractors to see the site before starting work and to properly plan how they will undertake any tasks.

We recommend that you retain copies of any risk assessments. They will be vital to defend your position, if the contractor deviates from their proposed method of working and someone is injured.

Plan work beforehand

You should insist the contractor provides a Method Statement to ensure a safe system of work. This should include full details of what the activity is and how it is going to be carried out, alongside any required work permits.

Pay particular attention to hazardous operations, such as working at height or in confined spaces. Overhead power lines should be identified and ground conditions should be able to support heavy plant machinery.

Enter into a formal contract

A formal contract will make the responsibilities of all parties clear. This will help the farmer and contractor understand what work is required, the time it will take and who will be on site and when.

However, no farmer should be endeavouring to control work that is undertaken by a contractor. Otherwise, the relationship is closer to an employment contract and brings additional responsibilities.

Monitor developments

Risk Assessments and Method Statements should be continuously reviewed and appropriate safety procedures should be adopted by the contractor. Everyone working on site should be informed of any changes in site conditions, possible new hazards or changes in work scheduled.

Working on farms does bring risks. That’s why it is vital that our Members do what they can to reduce the risk of accidents happening when it comes to contractors working on their farms, by ensuring that correct processes and procedures are followed.

One of the most important things to remember is to keep a regular and informed dialogue between all parties working on a farm together, so everyone knows what work is being carried out, when and by who.