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Health and Safety – Ignore it at your peril!

The words health & safety, in the context of estate and farm management, often generate yawns, a glazed expression and the perceived threat of reams of paperwork for both staff and employees alike – but ignore them at your peril.

I recently received a letter from one of our external health and safety consultants reminding me that it was three years since we had carried out a full review of an estate’s health and safety policies.  We have subsequently had a change of management personnel on the particular estate and I felt it would be sensible at this point carry out a full review of health and safety, by department, for the estate in question.

Admittedly this is not going to be a cheap task but, over recent weeks, I have twice had to take action in respect of contractors not complying with the estate’s health and safety policies.  In one incident, a roofer had gone up an unsecured ladder and was replacing a slipped slate higher up the slope.  He assured me that, when he had gone up the ladder, someone had stood at the bottom of the ladder to secure it, but as I advised him, this is unacceptable.  The work was stopped and I had to ask the agent to review the risk assessments and method statements from that particular contractor, before he carried out any further work on the estate.

The other incident was estate staff using another employee to assist with the felling of some small roadside trees, where the person providing the assistance did not wear the correct PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).  I had to speak to both individuals and reminded them of the estate’s Health and Safety Policy.

Whilst initially both these incidents may seem trivial, I regard the first particularly seriously as, during my career I have sadly been involved in both fatal and serious injury cases arising from working at heights.  The replacement of a slipped slate or a cracked tile, whilst looking to be a quick and easy job from the ground, can have fatal consequences and it is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that the job is carried out safely.  The cost and time taken will pale into insignificance in the event of an accident.

As part of managing the health and safety of an estate or farm, we must control the risks in our workplace.  The law does not expect us to remove all risks, but to protect employees and contractors alike, by putting in place measures to control those risks, so far as reasonably practicable.

The majority of estates and farms will no doubt have health and safety documentation in place, but it should not be there to gather dust!  It should be reviewed regularly, particularly when there is a change in the roles carried out by the members of staff, new staff starting on an estate, or the setting up of a new enterprise.

David Gray, Chairman, GSC Grays

For further assistance with reviewing/appraising Health & Safety on your farm or rural estate, please contact Phil Scott-Priestley, Director on tel: 01969 600120.


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