With every farm certified by Red Tractor now required to have a written health and safety policy, DEBBIE JAMES gets expert advice on what that document should include.


Farmers and farm workers are 20 times more likely to be killed at work than the national average for all industries.

Wayne Owen, an inspector with HSE’s agriculture division, says it is important that every farm identifies health and safety risks and properly manages these.

A health and safety policy is the first step to achieving this, he says.

For farming businesses with five employees or more, a written policy is a legal requirement but, regardless of size, it is also now a condition for all farms certified by Red Tractor.

In simple terms, it should clearly state who does what, when and how but, contrary to farmer perception, it doesn’t need to be detailed, advises Powys-based farm safety expert and training instructor Brian Rees.

“I have produced policies for businesses that are on one sheet of A4 paper, it really doesn’t have to be that detailed as more detail can be included in the risk assessment,’’ he suggests.

He describes a policy as a signed statement of intent that a farm will do everything that is reasonably practical to set itself up in a way that complies with all health and safety regulations.

What it is not is a tool for abdicating responsibility, Mr Rees adds.

“Farmers often think they are covering themselves with a health and safety policy but that is not the case, it is only a statement of intent.’’

He recommends producing a document listing each health and safety requirement, who is responsible for it and how each of the requirements will be delivered.

If the business has an appointed person for first aid, these should be named in the document, and details included of where first aid supplies are located.

All staff should be adequately trained to carry out their work so include a commitment that training will be identified, arranged and monitored, Mr Rees suggests.

“Set out which tasks will only be carried out by authorised and trained staff; this might be the handling and use of chemicals, the administration of veterinary medicines, handling livestock, and the use of chainsaws and vehicles such as tractors and telehandlers.’’

Many lives have been lost through equipment coming into contact with overhead power lines so include a commitment to ensure that a safe system of work is adopted for any jobs taking place under or near cables, but in general some tasks must not take place near to live overhead power lines.

Working at height is another aspect of farm work which accounts for many deaths year on year so include a section on this, such as making it clear that only trained and authorised staff are permitted to undertake work at height.

State that any equipment is suitable and sufficient and that it will be regularly inspected with formal inspection of ladders and stepladders carried out on a quarterly basis.

Incidents involving moving vehicles are the primary cause of deaths in UK agriculture – they were responsible for 30 per cent of all fatalities in the past five years, and many more people have been injured.

This is therefore an important section to include.

Assurances might include that training will be given to drivers and that all vehicles will be maintained and fitted with appropriate safety devices such as warning lights and beepers.

Farmers have a duty to assess the risk from hazardous substances used on the farm, such as pesticides, disinfectants and fertiliser, and also those generated or present in work activities, as in dust or fumes, Mr Rees advises.

“In line with this, include a statement that the business will identify substances and carry out CoSHH assessments and ensure that required control measures are implemented,’’ he says.

“Affirm that the business will communicate information about any risks and provide training in the controls required, but with staff taking responsibility for following those controls.’’