Farming is a high risk industry with 39 fatalities recorded within the UK in the past year, making it THE most hazardous occupation with 18 times the average fatality rate across all industries. Perhaps most upsetting are the child fatalities within this number - with 2 recorded during the 2018/19 period. Despite the high fatality rate, a rate that has not altered by much in the past 10 years, there is very little support for farmers in terms of developing their safety critical non-technical skills (NTS) as a method of improving safety. This is surprising given the focus on these skills in many other high risk industries including aviation, construction and offshore drilling.
Taking a leaf out of the aviation handbook - the industry which coined the phrase non-technical skills (the social and cognitive skills necessary for safe ad effective work performance), and first developed global training to enhance these skills in flight teams, Dr Irwin and the NTSAg team have developed a pocket guide explaining these skills and providing practical tips for implementation (e.g. create a communication plan to highlight hazards to contractors, or use a white board to keep track of task management). The contents of the guide are based on five years of research into farmer specific non-technical skills, condensed into less than 40 pages!
Dr Irwin comments 'Farmers work hard, and work long hours especially during harvest and lambing times. We can't reduce the number of hours worked, or the effort required to feed the rest of us, but we CAN provide farmers with support and guidance to enhance their safety critical skills and make those hours as safe as possible!'
'All of our research has been conducted WITH farmers, FOR farmers and this guide presents the main findings of the research in terms of best practice and practical recommendations. Farmers can fit this guide in their pocket, and there is room to personalise it with their own way of working. The idea is to get farmers thinking about their own safety in a way they perhaps haven't before - thinking about safety, discussing it with others, and making some changes won't cost farmers anything but time and could save a life'
The NTSAg team are supplying these guides to farmers free of charge, and have sent out over 1000 copies already, both within the UK and across the pond to the US and New Zealand.
Amy’s research will feature on BBC Scotland’s flagship rural affairs programme Landward on the 24th of October at 8pm, on BBC Scotland, and again on the 28th of October, 7.30pm on BBC1. Amy met Dougie and the team on her home farm in Aberdeenshire, then the team went on to film at Ednie Farm to discuss using the guide in practice