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RR700 - Understanding and influencing farmers’ attitudes

Agriculture, of all UK industries, has the highest rate of fatal accidents. This study has examined farmers’ attitudes, and the underlying influences, to identify how these might be changed to help improve safety in the industry.

A literature review showed that people’s perceptions of risk are influenced by social, cultural and group processes but no studies look specifically at perceptions of risk and attitudes to safety among farmers.

The main study examined the influences on farmers’ attitudes based on interviews with 35 farmers either at their farm or at livestock markets in the South West and South East of England. The sample covered farmers on small and large farms.

The study found that overall the farmers had positive attitudes and behaviours with respect to safety.

However, negative attitudes and behaviours emerged in specific areas such as the use of guidance and health. Analysis revealed that farmers with negative attitudes to guidance and health are strongly influenced by other farmers and members of their family respectively. Farmers with positive attitudes and behaviours in all areas are likely to acknowledge a strong influenced of HSE. Furthermore, many farmers are influenced by HSE in that they know they need to comply with regulations. This knowledge was gained primarily through HSE’s website and their agriculture Safety Awareness Days (SADs).

The recommendations suggest how HSE can use its website and SADs to further advantage by targeting particular areas where farmers have negative attitudes and behaviours. In addition, examples of good practice that emerged from the interviews with the farmers are provided.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19