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Agriculture sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description

Key stakeholders / influencers

With few large employers in the agricultural sectors, emphasis is placed on intermediaries to provide leadership and as a route for HSE influence. Industry associations, representative bodies, stakeholders etc (including AIAC members) and key players in the supply chain are well placed to promote occupational health and safety and lead cultural change.

The wider land-based sectors are fragmented. Again, industry associations, representative bodies and stakeholders are best placed to take ownership of health and safety performance and promote / lead cultural change. Clients in a number of these industries are well placed to reinforce health and safety expectations through the contracting process.

Safety and health issues

Complex reasons lie behind the causes of incidents, injuries and ill health including:

Legislation and regulation

As well as the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) and supporting regulations, there is some industry-specific legislation. Enforcement falls mainly to HSE.

Other aspects of agriculture are also subject to regulation. The total regulatory burden in the industry was reviewed in 2010/11 by the independent Farming Regulation Task Force. The Task Force endorsed HSE's risk-based approach to improving compliance.

Strategic regulatory and sector approach

Agriculture

Traditional proactive inspection of small, micro and self-employed businesses can be effective at influencing an individual company's health and safety performance. However, it is a very resource intensive and a relatively inefficient form of regulatory intervention for geographically dispersed sectors such as agriculture and the wider land-based industries. On occasion, there may be an evidence-based justification for carefully targeted proactive inspection in parts of the sector in support of the wider aim of promoting the importance of managing health and safety.

To that end, HSE will continue to help and support stakeholders in farming and wider land-based industries to work towards improving the sector's performance. At the same time, HSE will continue to investigate incidents and complaints and to take robust enforcement action in line with its published criteria.

There is an ongoing need for sufficient, competent resource in HSE to undertake necessary inspection and investigation, tackling specific aspects of high-risk poor performance.

The Agriculture Revisited Initiative (ARI) was established in 2008 to reduce the consistently high rates of work-related fatal injuries over 5-10 years. A key aim of ARI is for stakeholders and intermediaries to accept ownership of their industry's poor health and safety performance and promote improved practices. Key elements were:

Wider land-based industries

The culture needs to change if the health and safety performance of these industries is to improve. Central to improvement is the greater commitment, involvement and proactive lead from the key stakeholders trusted and respected by industry.

HSE cannot deliver this improvement alone but can assist by setting clear enforcement expectations through its mandatory work and by supporting industry initiatives.

Cross-government work

Although the general public is less aware of worker health and safety, considerable public, media and political interest is generated by public health and safety issues such as avian flu, E.coli O157 and other zoonotic risks and risks to the public (eg from livestock) from access to farmland and woodlands. HSE has a formal role in cross-government contingency planning to counter the public health risks and works with other government departments on matters affecting public safety.

There is a societal expectation that vulnerable migrant / casual / temporary workers are protected and incidents, such as the Morecombe Bay cockle picking disaster, are prevented. This is more likely to be achieved by effective joint working between different government departments and agencies.

Future trends

The sector's outlook is more positive and its role in the economy is probably more important than at any time since 1945. The industry is expected to require at least 60,000 new entrants over the next decade to maintain production performance, presenting the need and opportunity to embed health and safety in vocational training.

Challenges and opportunities affecting the hazard profile include:

Aims for 2012–15

The Agriculture Revisited Initiative targeted fatal accidents in farming. In contrast, this sector strategy extends to fatal and non-fatal injuries and work-related ill health in both agriculture and the wider land-based industries. The aims for the farming and land-based sectors are developed separately recognising the different stakeholder groups and the early progress with ARI in farming.

Farming

Leadership

For the key stakeholders / intermediaries to accept ownership of the industry's poor health and safety performance and demonstrate leadership in promoting:

Competence

To promote the uptake of competence-based training in managing health and safety in the industry and to collaborate in developing further training packages as necessary.

SMEs

To ensure health and safety advice / guidance and core messages are disseminated effectively to the industry.

Securing justice

To develop and publicise appropriate and justifiable benchmark health and safety standards and enforce as necessary to secure compliance.

Avoiding catastrophe

To ensure effective contingency plans and initiatives are in place to protect the public from risks in the industry.

Wider land-based sectors

Leadership

For the key stakeholders / intermediaries to accept ownership of their sector's poor health and safety performance and to demonstrate leadership by promoting good management and health and safety practices with their respective memberships.

Competence

To promote the uptake of competence-based training in managing health and safety in the industry and to collaborate in developing further training packages in the wider land-based sectors as necessary.

SMEs

To ensure health and safety advice / guidance and core messages are disseminated effectively to the industry.

Securing justice

To develop and publicise appropriate and justifiable benchmark health and safety standards and enforce as necessary to secure compliance.

Updated 2014-08-26