Safety thirst: Huge demand for safety guide created by University psychologist

A new guide for farmers designed to improve safety has proved hugely popular as demand for copies of the handbook continues to increase.

The pocket-sized guide to safety critical non-technical skills in farming was created by Dr Amy Irwin and the Applied Psychology and Human Factors Group at the University of Aberdeen.  The aim of the guide is to provide guidance on how to enable each farmer to tailor the guide to produce a bespoke handbook that is specific to them and their farm.

The guide condenses the findings from the research group from across the last 5 years into an easy to read format that encourages farmers to make notes as they go through. The team borrowed protocol usually used in the aviation industry to develop the guide - applying the concept of farming specific non-technical skills and providing practical tips for implementation.

The team are supplying these guides to farmers free of charge, and have sent out over 1000 copies already, both within the UK and internationally, to the US and New Zealand.

Dr Irwin explained the rationale behind the guide: “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. 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.

“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.

“I am keen to share this guide as widely as possible - if we save even one farmers life the guide will have done its job."

Amy’s research will feature on BBC Scotland’s flagship rural affairs programme Landward on November 7 at 8pm 


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