Stress an Important Factor in Farming Accidents

tractorFarmers are taking risks with their own personal safety often due to stress and financial pressures.

Dr Amy Irvine of Aberdeen University has been researching the issue of the risks farmers take in the day to day running of their business. Her report, Investigation of UK Farmer Go/No-Go Decisions in Response to Tractor-Based Risk Scenarios was recently published in the Journal of Agromedicine. 

Farmer perception of risk appears to vary according to the stated parameters of that risk, with hazards related to personal injury generally perceived as less risky than the possibility of damage to a machine. This has potential ramifications for the framing of risk, and associated communications and interventions, by organizations such as the HSE.”

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Agriculture is now the UK’s most dangerous industry with up to 3  fatal accidents each month.

Dr Irwin’s study looked in particular at incidents involving tractors.

“Stress, tiredness, and illness have been identified as accident predictors among farmers” however, most would continue to work on despite high levels of stress.

Dr Irwin who is an Industrial Psychologist said:

“Farmers are a unique group of workers in that they often grow up, and learn how to manage tasks, on a farm.  Farming is a high risk occupation that involves long hours, weather dependent tasks, a lot of lone working and management of multiple competing demands”.

“Fatal injuries in agriculture are steady at a rate of around 2 or 3 per month, a figure that hasn’t dropped even with the changes in health and safety culture over the last 25 years.

“It is important to consider the different risks that a farmer has to deal with and that the messaging for these risks might need to be individualised. Specifically – if you messaged a type of risk in terms of financial ramifications – the farmer might be more likely to pay attention.”

Andrew McCornick,NFU Scotland President  said:

“Unfortunately for those who work in the industry farming is a dangerous occupation. Whether it is working with unpredictable livestock or high powered machinery, farmers need to be constantly on the alert to different dangers.

“So many accidents that happen on farms occur because a farmer is rushing, not wanting to waste money, or is just not putting their safety and wellbeing as a priority.

“My advice to farmers when it comes to safety would be to stop, take a breath, and think about what the safest way to do a job is. It may not always be the quickest or the cheapest, but in the long run it will be the best.”

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