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Farming

Child safety on farm a priority

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ON MAY 2017, a nine-year-old boy was seriously injured at a Devon farm. Travelling as a passenger, he had toppled off an ATV being driven by a 13-year-old. The younger boy, whose leg was badly crushed, spent weeks in hospital, needed a skin graft from his back and he underwent weeks of intensive physiotherapy. The older boy was undoubtedly traumatised too. In January this year, the farm partnership responsible for the boys’ welfare and safety were fined £28,333 and ordered to pay costs.

This shocking incident, like many others throughout Wales and the UK, could have been avoided if simple safety precautions had been taken and the law adhered to. Farms and farmyards can be hazardous places for every age group, but children are particularly at great risk if allowed to play, visit or help out around the farm unsupervised.

The Wales Farm Partnership (WFSP), a collaboration of all the key agricultural stakeholder organisations in Wales, has issued a warning to all rural families reminding them that ‘children should not be in the workplace, it is illegal for under 13s to ride on agricultural vehicles or machinery and work equipment like ATVs should not be used by children.’

The WFSP is determined to encourage farmers everywhere to reduce the risk of on-farm accidents through its ongoing hard-hitting farm safety awareness campaign. This month, its members will remind farmers and foresters everywhere that the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards, especially where children are involved.

Being struck by or run over by farm machinery or visiting vehicles is the biggest single cause of children being killed on farms. Accidents most frequently reported in the UK involve falling from tractors and ATVs or quad bikes. But danger lurks everywhere! Year after year, we hear of tragedies involving children on farms drowning or being asphyxiated; being crushed; hit by falling objects or collapsing stacks and injured by animals.

At a working farm, unsupervised children, who are naturally inquisitive and often fearless, can face risk from almost everything in sight as well as the human element – the unsuspecting family member, visitor or delivery person who drives onto the yard, unaware children are running around freely.

Brian Rees chairs the WFSP. An experienced farm safety trainer and one of Farming Connect’s approved farm safety mentors, Mr Rees is also a farmer whose three children, all now grown up, were brought up on his family’s working farm in mid Wales.

“Farmers themselves often misguidedly believe that farm children understand farm risks, but most children who die or are injured in farm incidents are family members, which tells its own undeniably sad story.”

He advises that staying up to date with best practice, knowing your legal obligations and making sure that children are supervised at all times is essential.

“The most important point is that, to meet your legal duties and keep children safe, children should not be allowed in the farm work place (and for young children they should enjoy outdoor space in a secure fenced area).

“By implementing a few straightforward safeguards and by ensuring proper supervision of children at all times, every farming family can and must reduce the risks of life-ending or life-changing accidents.”

Any access to the work area by children under 16, for example for education, or knowledge experience, should be planned and fully supervised by an adult not engaged in any work activity.
Children under the age of 13 years are specifically prohibited from driving or riding on any agricultural machine.

“If you’ve got a computer or smartphone, you can get up to speed very easily by accessing guidance on best practice from both the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website and also that of the Farm Safety Foundation, which works closely with the HSE and the industry throughout the UK.

“The WFSP is intent on raising awareness to reduce the number of farm incidents, but to achieve that, we need farming families to work with us, to take advantage of the guidance, training and mentoring available, much of it fully funded or subsidised by up to 80% for farmers registered with Farming Connect,” said Mr. Rees.

Eligible farmers can apply for up to 22.5 hours of fully-funded, confidential on-farm guidance from one of the approved ‘farm health and safety’ mentors, who are part of Farming Connect’s mentoring programme.

“Most farmers are aware that they sometimes take short cuts and don’t always follow the correct safety guidance, but having an expert to informally visit your farm and point out, in complete confidence, what steps you can take to minimise or eliminate risks could reduce the risk of accidents for many families.”

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Farming

Farming faces zero carbon challenge

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AN AMBITIOUS new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050 will lead to significant changes in farming practices over the coming decades, according to a leading agri-environment specialist.

Professor Iain Donnison, Head of the Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, was responding to the publication of ‘Net Zero: The UK’s contribution to stopping global warming’ published by the UK Government Committee on Climate Change.

Professor Donnison is an expert on agriculture and land use, which feature in the report in terms of targets for one-fifth of agricultural land to be used for forestry, bioenergy crops and peatland restoration.

According to Professor Donnison, such a reduction is very ambitious but achievable in Wales and the wider UK. “Land use can positively contribute towards achieving the net zero targets, but there are challenges in relation to emissions from agriculture especially associated with red meat and dairy,” said Professor Donnison.

“In IBERS we are already working on how to make livestock agriculture less carbon intensive and developing new diversification options for the farming of carbon. For example, net zero targets could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

Professor Donnison added: “The report gives a clear message regarding the importance of the task and the role that the UK can play to compensate for past emissions and to help play a leadership role in creating a greener future.

“The report says it seeks to be based on current technologies that can be deployed and achievable targets. One-fifth of agricultural land is a very ambitious target but I believe that through the approaches proposed it is achievable (e.g. for bioenergy crops it fits in with published targets for the UK). This is based on the knowledge and technologies we have now regarding how to do this, and because right now in the UK we are developing a new agricultural policy that looks beyond the common agriculture policy (CAP). For example, the 25-year Environment plan published by Defra envisages payment for public goods which could provide a policy mechanism to help ensure that the appropriate approaches are implemented in the appropriate places.

“The scale of the change, however, should not be underestimated, although agriculture is a sector that has previously successfully responded to challenges such as for increased food production. The additional challenge will be to ensure that we deliver all the benefits we wish to see from land: food, carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) management and wider environmental benefits, whilst managing the challenge of the impacts of climate change.

“The link is made between healthy diets with less red meat consumption and future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. This reflects that agriculture will likely go through significant change over the coming decades as a result of changes in consumer diets.

“Net Zero targets, however, could provide significant diversification opportunities for both farmers and industries that make use of biomass and wood for the production of energy, materials including in construction and for wider environmental benefits.”

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Farming

HSE fees up 20%

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A FEE imposed on farm businesses found to be in breach of health and safety legislation has gone up nearly 20% to £154/hr.

Since October 2012 the Health and Safety Executive has operated a cost recovery regime, which means that businesses are charged for the costs of an investigation from the point a material breach has been identified through to the point when a decision is made on enforcement action.

If you are found to be in material breach of health and safety law, you will have to pay for the time it takes the HSE to identify the breach and help you put things right. This includes investigating and taking enforcement action. This charging scheme is known as a Fee for Intervention (FFI).

Robert Gazely, farm consultant and health and safety specialist for Strutt & Parker said: “A material breach is something which an inspector considers serious enough that they need to formally write to the business requiring action to be taken. Once an inspector gives a farmer this written notification of contravention (NoC), the farmer will be expected to pay a fee. 

“From 6 April 2019, the hourly charge has been increased from £129 to £154. The final bill will be based on the total amount of time it takes the HSE inspector to identify the breach and their work to help put things right.

“Of course, the primary reason for farms to be proactive in their approach to health and safety should be to protect themselves, their families and any employees.

“The number of people who are killed and injured each year on farms remains stubbornly high and the human cost of these incidents can be incalculable to those affected.

“But taking a safety-first approach should also help farm businesses to avoid a financial hit, as the HSE fees can mount up in the event of an investigation.”

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Farming

Big Farmland Bird Count returns

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JIM EGAN has sent out a rallying cry for people to pick up their binoculars and go bird-spotting for the Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) which returns on Friday, February 8.

The passionate organiser of the count, organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), is urging farmers, land managers, gamekeepers and all wildlife enthusiasts to spend 30 minutes recording what species they see on their patch of land from February 8th to the 17th.

Your support will help identify the farmland birds that are flourishing due to good conservation methods and ones in need of most support.

“It would be fantastic to see even more farmers to take part in the count this year,” said Jim.

“Counting birds on farms is a great way to recognise what species are there as well as being an opportunity to take time out and see the benefits of work such as wild seed mix and supplementary feeding.

“Taking part and submitting results enables us at GWCT to shout about the important conservation work many farmers are doing.

“We want landowners to be proud of their efforts. We will make sure that the public and policymakers hear about what can be achieved on Britain’s farms. The BFBC is a very positive way to showcase what can be achieved.”

Backing this vital citizen-science project, running for the sixth successive year, is the NFU, which is this year’s sponsor.

President Minette Batters is vowing her support to the count by going bird-watching on her farm in Downton, Wiltshire.

She will be joined on day one with GWCT biodiversity advisor Pete Thompson, an advocate of the count, both of whom will be ready with their binoculars, notepads and sharpened pencils, recording what they see.

“I am delighted to be taking part in this year’s GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count which the NFU is pleased to be sponsoring for the very first time,” she said.

“It’s becoming an important national event where thousands of farmers and growers around the country are able to take stock of and importantly, take pride in what they find on their land.

“The NFU supports initiatives like the Big Farmland Bird Count as without sound management of the environment, enhancement of habitats, protection of wildlife and support for pollinators and soils, we do not have farming businesses.

“So, I would encourage all farmers to take part, and also remember to submit your records to the GWCT, so we can pull together a vital national snapshot of the state of the nation when it comes to farmland birds.”

A record-breaking 1,000 people took part in last year’s count, recording 121 species across 950,000 acres.

A total of 25 red-listed species were recorded, with five appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list. These include fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most plentiful of these were fieldfares and starlings, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

At the end of the count, the results will be analysed by the Trust. All participants will receive a report on the national results once they have been collated.

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