Airline pilot checklist to cut farm dangers

A new checklist for Scotland’s farmers similar to that used by airline pilots has been developed by researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

New checklist for 'non technical' safety factors to be issued to farmers.
New checklist for 'non technical' safety factors to be issued to farmers.

The tractor driver situation awareness checklist, designed by the applied psychology and human factors group at the university, aims to reduce fatal accidents in Britain’s most hazardous industry.

Pilots, as well as other professionals such as surgeons, are trained in ‘situation awareness’ which means using non-technical skills to improve safety and outcomes.

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Researchers said situation awareness, which has three levels - perception, comprehension and anticipation - is a key skill to help tackle the factors making farming a dangerous occupation.

They asked farmers what they consider to be key situation awareness elements for tractor operation, as well factors that might lead to lapses - among those identified were distraction, fatigue and stress.

The checklist prompts a number of actions both prior and during driving the vehicle.

These include key checks to be carried out before operating equipment such as being aware of the location of other vehicles, people and animals, obstructions power lines, the condition of the vehicle and having a mobile phone and first aid kit.

It also lists personal factor for tractor drivers to consider such as illness and stress and fatigue level.

It also highlights possible factors which can lead to a loss of situation awareness, increasing the risk of accident or injury.

These include factors such as poor visibility and distractions and lack of knowledge about the terrain.

The list advises, that if any such factors are present, then stopping and thinking how to resolve the issues.

Dr Amy Irwin who led the research team said it was vital to identify the “human factor” which resulted in accidents and fatalities while operating farming machinery

“Farming is currently the most hazardous industry in the UK, with 33 fatalities recorded by the Health and Safety Executive in the 2017-18 period.

“Six of the fatalities during 2017-18 involved being struck by a moving vehicle and workers are also at risk of being entangled in moving machinery.

“In order to address, and reduce these fatalities it is vital we understand the underlying causes and lapses that lead to these farm vehicle incidents”.

Dr Irwin added that the checklist, which includes tips such as sharing information with colleagues, friends and family, was being sent out to 50 farmers across the UK for feedback before the scheme is extended.

Scott Walker, chief executive of NFU Scotland, speaking on behalf of Farm Safety Partnership Scotland said: “Farmers work long hours and often in difficult conditions. Practical measures that help to improve safety on farm is welcome.

“The tractor checklist helps farmers and crofters be aware of the potential risks they face as they go about their work. This has the potential to reduce accidents and I would encourage all to adopt it as part of their routine.”