Two farm deaths from falls on the same day

Two similar fatalities in agriculture on the same day (29 August 2016) are sad reminders to us all of the risks of working at height.

HSE reported the death in Cornwall of a self-employed person (in their late 40’s-early 50’s) who fell through the roof of an agricultural building during maintenance work on the very same day that a worker (over 65) died after a fall from a ladder in Somerset.

Falls from height continues to be one of the biggest causes of workplace deaths in agriculture. There are also significant numbers of non-fatal incidents that cause life changing injuries.  Most farms will, from time to time, carry out some building or maintenance work that requires work at height.

HSE has emphasised that the roof work incident demonstrates that many farm building roofs are fragile and the risks can be considerable. No one should ever work on or from, or walk over, fragile roofs unless platforms, covers or similar are provided which will adequately support their weight.

If work at height cannot be avoided, then falls should be prevented by planning the work properly and should make sure that the right access and safety equipment is used.  Ladders are often the first equipment considered by farmers, but activities that can be done safely from a ladder are in reality limited: it may not be the best choice to do the job safely.

There is a wealth of guidance available. General guidance on falls from height can be found on HSE’s work at height pages and the site includes specific agricultural advice on agricultural building work and work at height – preventing falls. The Health and Safety Authority’s Code of Practice for Preventing Injury and Occupational Ill Health in Agriculture also contains useful guidance on working at height.

HSE Northern Ireland’s ‘Stop and Think Safe’ information leaflets includes Preventing Falls From Height.

If you are looking for something  different, The Farm Safety Partnership’s ‘Safety focus on: Farm Buildings highlights the key risks from construction and maintenance of farm buildings. Although it has not been updated since CDM2015 was introduced, the general guidance is still relevant and it provides useful practical advice and case studies, in relation to:

  1. Safe Site
  2. Safe Roof
  3. Safe Maintenance

In terms of ladders, HSE advise that ladders should only be used in situations where they can be used safely, eg where the ladder will be level and stable, and, where it is reasonably practicable to do so, the ladder can be secured. As a guide, if a task would require staying up a leaning ladder or stepladder for more than 30 minutes at a time, then it is recommended that alternative equipment be considered.

For more information, check out HSE’s work at height access equipment information toolkit to help you decide upon the right access equipment.