Farm safety – social economic and political factors
The nature of working on a farm and on safety is to an extent conditioned by the fact that farming is often seen as a way of life, rather than as a formal occupation or job. In many ways this is true, although not to undermine the huge amount of hard work and productivity farming entails. The view of farming being a way of life means that it does not have the framework or pressures that a normal occupational has to mitigate risk and reinforce a mindset of safety.
In today’s world of work, with companies except need some type of day care, which either they provide, or make an allowance for in terms of time and cost, for their staff. In farming this is much more unlikely to happen.
Looking after children or babies is likely to be done in the context of a working farm, meaning that parents and carers are physically part of the environment that they are working in. This is likely to lead to a blurring of boundaries, and potentially increasing safety risks.
Occupational health and safety legislation
Whilst many strides have been made in the workplace and factory regarding health and safety, many regulations exempt certain industries including farming and agriculture. This is because regulations are often very difficult to frame in such a way that they are relevant to agriculture. There are also great will to enforce in farming, and as such are often not legally enforceable.
Following on from the belief that farming is a way of life, many people believe that farming and all types of agricultural work are by their very nature hazardous and unpredictable, and that often very little can be done to increase safety. There is sometimes a belief that the nature of risk just has to be accepted. This can lead either to a sense of complacency, or just a belief that health and safety does not apply in the same way to agriculture and it does to other industries.
Farmers, perhaps more than anyone are subject to market forces in terms of prices for their products, and as such often see health and safety costs as being something that they cannot recuperate, and therefore are less likely to want to spend money on it.
The nature of farming means that it is a very self-reliant profession, with farmers relying very much on their own instincts, intuition and experience. It also means that there is a self-reliance on risk assessment for any type of safety concern, which can vary widely for fairly obvious reasons.
The lack of a formal risk assessment process, or application of health and safety legislation does not mean that farmers are not open to an awareness of the risks associated with their work. On the contrary, many are and are very careful in trying to minimise and avoid risk to person and property where ever possible.
It does mean that the issue of self-reliance makes their judgement a very personal one, which at certain times simply won’t be enough. They do not have the benefit of a much wider basis of experience which normally performs a judgement of most health and safety legislation, and application of a risk model or risk assessment basis.