Farm health and safety: It’s culture, not compliance

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Agriculture has a shockingly poor health and safety record, but ensuring health and safety is embedded in the farm workplace culture could help significantly.

“There is too much emphasis on compliance – filling in forms, having a health and safety folder, posters and so on – and not enough emphasis on culture,” says Paul Harris, CEO at staff specialists REAL Success.

“Health and safety is a cultural issue; although we have legal obligations, if we’re going to try and change the health and safety record of the industry, we need to start by improving the workplace attitude.”

This involves ensuring good working conditions, sensible working hours and managing people with priority given to their safety. “There will always be more accidents if employees are tired, working with poorly maintained equipment, or in a culture where unnecessary risks are accepted as the norm,” he says.

“We work on building great teams of people, but a great culture is needed to build great health and safety – happy farms are safe farms. This is important for leadership too; it’s the employer’s job to protect their employees.”

Quad bikes and ATVs are one of the leading causes of fatalities on farms, which was highlighted recently in a feature on Countryfile (7 April). “You can put people on courses for driving quad bikes safely and encourage them to wear a helmet, but if health and safety isn’t central to the culture of the business then no amount of courses will save lives,” says Mr Harris.

Accidents can have catastrophic impacts on people’s lives, their families and their businesses. “Wearing a helmet can save lives – it’s simple – it shouldn’t be a compliance thing, it should be an attitude thing and cemented into the team from the top to the bottom.”

Mr Harris challenges the industry to think about health and safety differently: “Is it about compliance or culture? Does your workplace have a high-risk culture when it comes to health and safety?

“It’s not just about protocol, it’s about people too – they are the most important part of a business.”