Sunday, June 16, 2024

HSE decision to end farm safety inspections branded as ‘deeply troubling’

Serious concerns are being raised over the recent decision by the HSE  to halt farm safety inspections, fearing it will pose significant risks to the health and safety of agricultural workers in the farming sector.

Speaking for the first time as chair of the Farm Safety Partnership, NFU Deputy President David Exwood warned that it was wrong to compromise on the safety of our farmers, farm workers, or those living on or visiting farms.

He said: “The decision to halt inspections is deeply troubling and we urge the government and HSE to reconsider and continue to work collaboratively with farmers to help ensure they are compliant. We simply must prioritise the wellbeing of the nation’s farmers and growers.”

The HSE is switching to a focus on occupational health issues rather than preventative general health and safety inspections. It will continue to provide investigative inspections in response to serious incidents such as on-farm accidents or deaths.

The HSE advised that despite efforts over several decades, there has not been a significant reduction in the fatality rate for agriculture. HSE advised the reduction in actual numbers of fatal injuries have been attributed to a reduction in the numbers working in the industry since the 1980s.

Mr Exwood said the lack of public awareness surrounding this decision raised serious questions about HSE’s prioritisation of safety within the farming sector. “While the HSE assures us that investigative inspections will continue in response to serious incidents, the lack of all regular inspections, training and events leaves a notable gap in proactive and preventative safety measures that could prevent accidents and save lives,” he said.

“Agriculture has one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injuries in any workplace and to help bring this number down, as a sector we need to work on changing the culture of farm safety. This decision by HSE completely goes against that goal.

“We are calling on Defra and the Department for Work and Pensions to recognise the critical safety implications of this decision, urgently review the potential impacts and establish a clear plan to prioritise the safety of those in the sector.

“The FSP is committed to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of agricultural workers. We will be engaging in conversations with the government and the wider industry to support the development and implementation of policies and practices that safeguard the livelihoods of those working in agriculture.”

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