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NFYFC Farm Safety Award Finalist Emily Jones discusses the findings of her Honours Research Project into farm Health and Safety.

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7 September 2021

My name is Emily Jones and I have recently graduated from Harper Adams with a First Class Honours degree in Agri-Business. HAU inspired my desire to make a difference in the agriculture industry, sparked my interest in farm safety, and gave me the opportunity to build on my knowledge through a scholarship placement year with Safety Revolution. Upon graduation, I have joined CXCS as a Trainee Health & Safety Advisor and I look forward to working with farmers and talking about all things safety in the years to come.

Despite being an inevitable part of life, grieving the loss of someone you love is heartbreaking.  When the circumstances surrounding the bereavement could have been avoided, the anguish must be unimaginable. The ‘what ifs’ and the haunting consideration of what could’ve or should’ve been is sobering.

I feel incredibly strongly that farm safety needs to be improved. No one should go through the pain of losing a loved one if the circumstances can be prevented, which is the sad reality of many farming accidents. When yet another tragic fatality is reported in the press, it is quite rightly met with shouts of “more needs to be done”. There is only so much longer we, as an industry, can stand by without addressing the urgent need for action.

I considered my dissertation (“How to Drive Change and Improve Farm Safety”) as an opportunity to study my subject of interest, whilst also having the potential to add real value to the industry beyond academic purposes. Given that health and safety is often negatively perceived, I was unsure of what to expect when my data questionnaire was shared on social media.

To say I was blown away by the response would be an understatement. The reaction to my study was phenomenal. The likes, shares, and comments kept coming and as a result, the questionnaire responses began to climb through the hundreds – and by the time of writing my results, I had achieved over 1000 completed questionnaires from farmers across the UK.

My main findings were as follows:

  • Farmers generally have a constructive outlook towards safety, whereby they acknowledge safety is important and that it needs to be improved.
  • Lack of time, money, and understanding were identified as the main barriers preventing farmers from improving safety.
  • Time pressure, complacency, and culture were identified as the main reasons why safety is not always prioritised.
  • To improve safety, good practice must be normalised.
  • The stigma surrounding health and safety needs to be removed. This could be achieved through a more proactive approach to discussion and normalisation of good safety.
  • Greater support needs to be available to farmers. Practical advice and guidance on how to improve safety needs to be more widespread and accessible. Increased focus and support from farming groups will help towards creating a culture shift.
  • Safety advice and information needs to be more readily available. Information needs to be relevant, easy to understand and delivered in an agricultural context.
  • Grant-funding to incentivise and support farmers in making safety improvements should be considered.

Overall, my study found that in order to drive change, good farm safety practice needs to be normalised and greater support is required to encourage and assist farmers in this process. A proactive, practical and supportive approach is the key to improving farm safety in the UK.

It is my belief that farm safety is simply a means to come home safely. Safety doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming. It is only a matter of changing your mindset, prioritising what is important and coming home in one piece at the end of the day.

The time, interest, and effort demonstrated by farmers who completed my survey was overwhelming – and I’m so grateful to all those who shared, supported, and gave such kind words of encouragement for this project. I sincerely hope this positive, proactive approach to improving safety is a sign of better things to come for the safe future of UK agriculture.

A guest blog written by Emily Jones, a finalist for the Yellow Wellies Farm Safety Award in the  YFC Achiever Awards and who finished her studies at Harper Adams this year.

 
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