Be prepared when the worst happens on the farm

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According to the Health and Safety Executive, agriculture has the worst fatal injury rate and one of the worst occupational health records of any major employment sector.

Yet despite a reported non-fatal accident rate of 249 per 100,000 workers, the HSE considers these statistics represent a very significant under-reporting in the actual number of accidents.

Whatever the true picture, it is clear that there are a significant number of agricultural accidents each year. This means that all sides of the industry need to be aware of how best to minimise the risk of accidents and what to do when one happens.

For employees, being involved in an accident can be shocking. If you are involved in an accident, it is important to keep as calm as possible, assess whether you require medical attention and, of course, seek help immediately.

There are a number of helpful things to do if possible.

One, if there is a witness to the accident, is to ask them for their name, address and telephone number.

It is also useful to take photographs of the accident site, including any equipment you were using if appropriate.

To make a claim, your lawyers will need to gather a significant amount of information about the accident. This process starts with taking a statement from you about how the accident occurred and how it has affected you. We would then recover your medical records and, if you are still suffering from the effects of any injury, we would normally instruct an appropriate medical expert to examine your injury and provide us with a report.

If you have been absent from work we would also ask your employers to let us have details of how the absence has effected your income. Finally, you should make sure you keep any evidence supporting a claim for miscellaneous expenses, such as taxi receipts for attending at hospital, physiotherapy costs and payments for medication.

You only have three years from the date of any accident to make a claim in court. If you do not, your case becomes what is known as “time barred”, which means it will almost certainly be impossible to claim. So, if you do have an accident, you should speak to a solicitor as quickly as possible.

For employers, the first step is to reduce your risk. Ensuring you comply with all relevant health and safety legislation should result in your farm being a safer place for employees and visitors, and should also reduce the likelihood that you could be the subject of a claim. There are certain key issues that you should consider:

Employers are obliged to undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments, in particular, on health and safety matters which relate to you, your staff and any other person who might be at risk from the work you undertake.

You are required to provide necessary training to your employees. There are both general and specific requirements in relation to the training of individuals and the tasks they are asked to carry out. You are required to have suitable arrangements to provide first aid. You must also have procedures in place to deal with emergencies. You are required to report all accidents or dangerous occurrences.

The best practical advice after an accident is to keep calm and assess whether medical attention is required for anyone involved and to seek help immediately if necessary. If there are any witnesses to the accident it is helpful to take full details of their name, address and telephone number, if they are not a member of your staff. It is also extremely useful to have photographs of the accident site and any machinery, equipment or buildings involved.

Do not try to deal with any claim that is made on your own.

You should immediately inform your insurers who are likely to appoint a claims investigator or a solicitor to deal with the matter on your behalf. If you fail to report a claim or try to deal with it yourself, you may find that your insurer refuses to offer you cover under your policy, which could, of course, have very significant financial implications.

Accidents are an inevitable occurrence in every profession. When they occur, it is important to both resolve the dispute in hand and to look beyond the accident to see if similar problems could be avoided in the future. Lindsays are holding a free personal injury advice clinic at their Jedburgh office on November 25. To make an appointment, call Iain Penman on 0131 656 5744.