From the flight path to the field: trying to save lives in the UK's most hazardous industry

From the flight path to the field: trying to save lives in the UK's most hazardous industry

A new checklist for farmers, similar to that used by airline pilots has been developed by researchers from University of Aberdeen.

The checklist designed by the Applied Psychology and Human Factors group at the University aims to reduce fatal accidents in agriculture by improving non-technical skills through ‘checking’ procedures, similar to those used by airline pilots.

Dr Amy Irwin who led the research team explained the risks associated with operating farming machinery: “Farming is currently the most hazardous industry in the UK, with 33 fatalities recorded by the Health and Safety Executive in the 2017/18 period.

“Six of the fatalities during 2017/18 involved being struck by a moving vehicle and workers are also at risk of being entangled in moving machinery.

“In order to address, and reduce these fatalities it is vital we understand the underlying causes and lapses that lead to these farm vehicle incidents”.

The research group explored a key non-technical skill considered necessary for safe and efficient work practice known as ‘situation awareness’.  They asked farmers what they consider to be key situation awareness elements for tractor operation, as well factors that might lead to lapses -  among those identified were distraction, fatigue and stress.

In collaboration with farm safety organisations Lantra and Elizabeth Creed Consulting as well as with support from IOSH and Women in Agriculture (Scottish Government) the team developed their research into a practical tool for farmers. Dr John McNamara , the  Health and Safety Specialist Advisor  for Teagasc,  the Irish Agriculture and Food Development also collaborated in the research. 

The result was the tractor driver situation awareness checklist and user guide and this will be available free of charge from here and on the Applied Psychology and Human Factors group website.

Dr Irwin added: “Checklists are already used to enhance safety in other industries such as aviation and healthcare, through improving the reliability of safety checks, encouraging communication and helping workers to identify problems.

“The situation awareness checklist applies the same principle to farming, using information provided by farmers to help improve driver safety. 

“We encourage anyone who drives a tractor regularly to use the checklist and hope that we can improve the safety of those hardworking farmers whose dedication we all benefit from.” 

 

ENDS

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