Clarkson praised for farm life focus but pilloried on safety
Tina Morgan calls for the global farming industry to show new leadership on health and safety as TV star wastes UK opportunity.
Reality TV rarely shines a light on an industry that everyone relies on, but many know little about. Yet this is what Clarkson’s Farm (Amazon Prime) has done.
Jeremy Clarkson, a TV personality and complete novice to farming, shows his lack of knowledge and experience almost immediately. He is heard saying there are “hundreds of different ways to kill yourself” in farming and he isn’t wrong: 25 people were killed in the UK in 2021/22 because of farming and other agriculture-related activities. With UK farming’s older workforce, a third of these workers killed were aged 65 or older.
Thankfully, Jeremy isn’t short of help. He has a Land Agent who, in the first show, tells him the “biggest challenge will be learning how to do it”. His local NFU Agent shows him how to operate the farm equipment; and he’s assisted by Kaleb, a young but extremely capable farmer.
Through both the first and second series we see Jeremy getting to grips with the long hours and hard work, we see the remote nature and intensity of the work and the huge range of skills required which Jeremy learns along the way. There are also frustrations around the time spent filling in forms and dealing with the formalities of farming. The show demonstrates the ingenuity of farmers and their ‘get on an get it done attitude,’ with the humour always managing to come through.
Also featured is the fantastic work for wildlife which includes setting up owl boxes, rewilding areas, creating a pond and putting in grass margins. Many farmers undertake conservation work and this is rarely reported.
Unfortunately, there are Badgers on the edge of the farm that are found to be carrying TB and in the second series we see how this affects the farming community. A neighbouring farm has lost 60 of its cattle to the disease and their remaining herd, and ultimately their livelihood, is still at risk. We also see the hens and cockerels having to be housed due to Bird Flu and all of this adds to the pressures of farming.
Not fully supportive
While most of the farmers who watch the programme applaud the series for being a true and accurate reflection of farming, the Farm Safety Groups are not fully supportive of the show. The trailer for Series 2, for example, showed Kaleb being carried on the front of the tractor and this led to a lot of criticism. But other dangerous activities that have been shown on camera relate to:
- Improper storage of fertilisers and chemicals
- Operating machinery and equipment
- Fire risks and emergency plans
- Unsafe work at height
- Chainsaw use without adequate PPE
- Cattle handling
- Poor Construction Design and Management (CDM) compliance.
Jeremy does, on occasion, recognise unsafe practices, but he still allows them to continue. A close call leads him to do the online LANTRA Health & Safety Course, but rather than respond positively he talks of the ‘torture of health and safety instructions’, shows contempt for the subject and at one point appears to be asleep.
It is possible that some of what we see is done for entertainment purposes but please, Jeremy, use your voice and platform not only to entertain but to highlight the dangers of farming and promote how safe practices can be adopted easily and usually without any significant cost.
The industry needs to show leadership on this, especially when we see that in the past couple of weeks another farmer has been killed, his son seriously injured, and another farmer jailed for health and safety breaches. We must stop the loss of lives and the devastating impact each death has on farming families and communities.
Tina Morgan CFIOSH
Chair of the IOSH Rural Industries Group