Extra care warning as accidents and fatalities continue to haunt farm work

Jim Sharp was killed in an incident involving a grain silo auger

Jim Sharp was killed in an incident involving a grain silo auger

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Against a backdrop of consistently high fatality and accident figures in the industry, the Farm Safety Partnership for Scotland has urged farmers and their staff to take extra care in the workplace as winter approaches.

The organisation, which was launched in August this year with the backing of NFU Scotland, NFU Mutual, the Scottish Government, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is currently raising awareness of issues surrounding the four commonest causes of death and injury on Scottish farms.

Under the “Don’t leave it to FATE” initiative – which warns of the dangers from Falls, Animals, Transport and Equipment – the organisation has warned that these four areas account for around 70 per cent of the fatal injuries on Scottish farms and are featured in the partnership’s current leaflet campaign.

The safety warning was given particular significance following the recent conclusion of a fatal accident inquiry into the tragic death of Lauder farmer Jim Sharp, which occurred earlier in the year. A well-respected livestock farmer and member of NFU Scotland, Mr Sharp died after he became entangled with a sweep auger in a grain silo.

In light of the ever-present danger the NFUS and HSE this week urged everyone working on farms to remember to use the “safe stop” procedure when working with any form agricultural machinery. This advises farmers to put the handbrake on, make sure the controls are in neutral (ie, that the equipment is made safe), stop the engine (or turn off the power) and to remove the key (or lock-off the power supply).

The organisations said that this was particularly important when carrying out maintenance or repairs when working with safety guards removed or in closer proximity to the moving parts.

They also warned farmers and workers not to enter grain silos with the auger running and to ensure that the safe stop procedure was used.

Commenting on the fatal accident inquiry, NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie said: “Mr Sharp was a well-known, well-respected member of the Borders farming community and his death remains a tragic loss. Farming remains one of the most hazardous industries to work in and the loss of an important industry figure like Mr Sharp simply strengthens the union’s resolve and commitment to work with others and improve our sector’s health and safety record.

“Sweep augers move slowly but have been responsible for several accidents – usually fatal – where the individual has become entangled by footwear or clothing.”

He said that, no matter how time-pressed, those working on farms should not be tempted to enter grain silos in order to clear blockages of any kind unless the power had been isolated.

He also warned of the dangers of bridging in the grain: “Drowning in grain silos is another ­danger which can occur when a person sinks into the grain as the silo empties. Also consider lack of oxygen in the silo, particularly if the grain could be damp or contaminated or if the silo is sealed.”

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