It's well documented that the rate of fatal accidents in agriculture, forestry and fishing is significant; 18 times higher than the UK all-industry rate. The figure is a stark reminder that the rural sector needs to manage risk from work activities -particularly where lone working is concerned.
Whether it's working with large machinery, livestock or in a challenging natural environment, there are ways that employerscan reduce risk.
Assess all activities in which lone workers will be engaged, including duties that arise rarely. Consider the risks created by the activity and how that might impact on safety and risk of injury.
Consult with your workers for their views on tasks and the risks posed â€“ and record any significant findings from risk assessments in writing. Review the assessment at least annually and whenever there are changes to working practices, or the working environment.
Control the risks
Controlling risk is about mitigatingâ€“ and in some cases, avoiding it altogether.
For lone workers, some duties cannot be done safely with less than two people present. These tasks should be identified and measures put in place to ensure that lone individuals do not carry out the work.
For risks that can be mitigated, use control measures, such as personal protective equipment, mechanised equipment or specific training.
Lone workers have to be competent in all tasks they do, because the opportunity to ask for help or guidance is far more limited than in other working environments.
Training should include clear guidelines on how to seek help. Gauge the suitability/unsuitability of specific tasks for lone working, communicate this to all workers and ensure that your directions are understood. Carry out regular spot checks, and establish a reporting pathway so that concerns or policy breaches can be addressed.
Establish a communication system, so that lone workers can obtain guidance when unexpected things happen. Your system should take account of mobile network coverage and the possible need for hands-free operation. Ensure workers have a check-in procedure to identify their location regularly.
Don't overlook the duty you have towards non-employees, which includes employees of contractors who work in your business and those who are on-site transiently, such as delivery drivers. Provide these workers with the same information, guidance and communication pathways as employees, to reduce the risk of injury when they are on-site.
Record keeping is vital, so keep records of risk assessments and control measures.
Don't overwrite them when they are reviewed - if something happens, you may have to confirm the system in placepreviously. You may also need to demonstrate that you have responded to changes in the business and that any risks posed by those changes have been considered.
Keep full records of all training and instruction given to workers - and consider having workers confirm in writing that the information has been received, and understood. Ensure all information and evidence is retained.
Avoid complacency - consider everything
The best way to accurately identify risk is to look at the business as a whole. Ask whether something is safe, and, if not, can it be made safe? Every situation is individual so seek advice from an external adviser.
Once a safe system of work is established, it's your job to ensure competence and comprehension from everyone who worksin your business.
This article originally appeared in the Press and Journal.