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Hazards in Agricultural Work

By: Kevin Watson MSc - Updated: 19 May 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Agricultural Work Hazardous Safety

As with many other industries, agricultural work is potentially hazardous. But it is possible to do such work without running into too many difficulties. Agricultural employers and staff must simply be aware of the safety aspects of their environment. They must also act promptly if they come across any problems.

Confined Spaces

There are often a number of confined spaces on a farm. Among them are grain silos, forage bins, slurry pits, and vegetable or fruit stores. Entering these spaces and remaining there for any length of time may be dangerous. Unfortunately there are instances of people asphyxiating, drowning or being caught in a sudden fire.

It’s possible to reduce such risks with suitable ventilation, safety barriers and warning signs. Anyone likely to enter a confined space should also have appropriate training about the dangers and how to avoid them.

Dust

A significant cause of long-term health damage in agricultural work is dust. This may come from poultry or grain, and is at its most Hazardous to Health in a confined space. Once again, good ventilation can help lessen any problems. Suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as face masks and coveralls is also helpful.

Fertiliser

It’s wise to store fertiliser separately from other products. Ammonium nitrate fertiliser is particularly hazardous. It releases toxic fumes and has the potential to explode in certain conditions.

Where there are 25 tonnes or more of ammonium nitrate, the owner must inform the local fire brigade and erect warning signs. If there are 150 tonnes or more, the owner must also tell the Health and Safety Executive within four weeks.

Livestock

Livestock, even relatively placid animals, are a hazard under some circumstances. They need proper restraints, for example, when a vet is treating them. Most ways of Handling Livestock may be self-evident, but accidents occur regularly. Anyone involved with animals must therefore be vigilant and err on the side of safety.

Machinery

Agricultural work needs machinery. The hazards from this are noise, pollution, vibration, breakdowns and accidents. Ear plugs and masks can help prevent noise and pollution from affecting health. With vibration, it’s important to reduce this to a minimum and monitor the health of anyone exposed to it for long periods. As for breakdowns and accidents, training should explain good practice to agricultural workers and alert them to the hazards.

Public Access

Some farms have developed their businesses and allow limited access to the public. They may also have farm shops on site.

The hazards are the nature of the access, and the movement of cars in and around farm buildings. There should be strict controls on public access to prevent unauthorised people wandering into hazardous areas, and cars must remain within contained parking areas.

Slips, Trips and Falls

Slips, trips and falls are perhaps more likely to occur during agricultural work than any other occupation. Mud, ice and obstructions are constant hazards. One of the best ways of reducing the number of slips, trips and falls is to ensure everyone keeps working areas tidy and clean. This also means spreading salt in the winter along paths and walkways, treating oily spillages the moment they occur, and ensuring good drainage in areas where there’s a lot of water.

Prevention

The scope of hazards in agricultural work can seem overwhelming. A risk assessment, however, can put them in perspective. It can also highlight any problems that need urgent attention. Such a preventive approach makes an agricultural enterprise as safe as possible.

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