Support for agricultural workers this Farm Safety Week and beyond

Today marks the start of Farm Safety Week 2022, a campaign to encourage everyone in the industry to make farms safer places to live and work.

Organised by the Farm Safety Foundation – also known as Yellow Wellies – the five-day event runs from Monday 18 to Friday 22 July.  

A decade after the first awareness week, agriculture remains one of Britain’s most hazardous industries, according to latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

This year’s campaign will reflect on what has been achieved in the UK and Ireland as well as highlight how much is still to be done. Organisers are also encouraging everyone working in the industry to prioritise their physical and mental wellbeing each and every day – not just during Farm Safety Week.

Tina Morgan, Chair of IOSH’s Rural Industries Group, said: “Farm Safety Week 2022 is an important week for everyone involved in agriculture, health, safety and welfare.

“This year is the 10th anniversary and yet we are still talking about the same type of accident as we were 10 years ago, but we must never give up sharing our knowledge, resources and expertise to help those who want to make the change. 

“Farming is an extremely hard-working sector, with long hours and hazards at every turn, yet most are well controlled and there are some amazing safety advocates in the industry.

“What we must remember is that most ‘accidents’ are avoidable, and this is slowly being recognised by the industry. The voice for change needs to be louder than the voice that advocates the status quo.”

In support of this initiative, IOSH is sharing tips and resources to help agricultural workers manage musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), mental health and wellbeing, and exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, which puts them at higher risk of skin cancer.

This information is relevant for occupational safety and health (OSH) professionals wherever they are in the world.

How to manage MSDs

In the agricultural sector in Great Britain, MSDs were the most frequent type of work-related illness, according to a 2021 HSE report. IOSH’s Occupational Health Toolkit offers information and advice on how to prevent and manage MSDs along with other issues affecting farm and agricultural workers.

Check out the IOSH Toolkit.

How to manage mental health and wellbeing

More than 90 per cent of farmers under 40 rated mental health as the biggest hidden problem facing farming today, according to research by the Farm Safety Foundation.

IOSH’s Occupational Health Toolkit also contains information on how to tackle mental health and wellbeing at work. And our Managing Occupational Health and Wellbeing course provides practical advice and tools for managers to help create a healthy and productive place of work.

Book your place on the course.

How to manage sun exposure

One of the risks of working in farming and agriculture is solar radiation. With 60 workers a year killed by skin cancer in the UK, here are our top 10 tips to make sure you’re doing what you can to protect yourself and your colleagues from sun exposure.

  1. Check the UV index from the weather forecasts and communicate this information to relevant workers, alongside prompts to use protective measures to minimise exposure.
  2. Avoid or minimise exposure to direct sunlight in the middle part of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  3. Regularly swap job tasks between workers to make sure everyone on the team can spend some time in the shade.
  4. Use heavy duty cover or shade when working in the sun – shade can cut UV exposure by 50 per cent-plus.
  5. Take rest breaks in shaded areas or indoors.
  6. Add UV protective films or tints to plain glass vehicle windows if they’re not laminated to protect workers who drive on a regular basis. On side windows, these are only effective when the windows are closed.
  7. Raise awareness of solar radiation issues with workers, using toolbox talks or training sessions, to encourage them to take responsibility for their own health and safety with the organisation’s support.
  8. Wear long-sleeved, loose-fitting tops and trousers when working outdoors during months with high UV levels, but make sure clothing design does not introduce other hazards. 
  9. Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, head, ears and neck or, if you’re wearing a safety helmet, use those fitted with ‘Legionnaire-style’ neck flaps.
  10. Wear sunglasses with 100 per cent UV protection or UV-filtering safety goggles with the same level of protection if the work requires physical eye protection. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 and a UVA rating of four or five stars when your skin cannot be protected by other measures and reapply regularly and generously.

Detecting the early signs of skin cancer can save lives, and you can find out how to do this in IOSH’s guide.

Sector support from IOSH

IOSH’s Rural Industries Group offers networking opportunities, news updates and sector-specific events for members. Its main focus is members who work in isolated and remote locations. Join the group and follow its activities on LinkedIn.

IOSH will also be sharing more helpful resources through our social media channels throughout the week.

Read more about Farm Safety Week, follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and search #FarmSafetyWeek.

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Ali Barlow
Content Officer +44 (0)116 257 3117
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