Importance of health and safety in countryside work

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Logo: Lowe Maintenance Forestry & Land Based Training
Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain in 2020/21
Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain in 2020/21 infographic

By Demelza Lowe, Managing Director / Owner of Lowe Maintenance Training

You wouldn’t be the first and you certainly won’t be the last to assume that health and safety isn’t a serious consideration for those working in the countryside sectors. Now more than ever, the safety of not only operators, but the general public and the environment, must be considered by those working in our glorious countryside. Specialist land based training helps to avoid work-related incidents, as well as protecting the environment.

Employer, employee, self-employed?

Whether you are an employer, employee, self-employed, volunteer or apprentice, you have legal responsibilities to adhere to while working in the countryside. These include not only regulations and codes of practice linked directly to your safety but working to industry best practices for the protection of the environment.

Unfortunately, every year there are still work-related deaths of people working within the countryside, including in farming, arboriculture, forestry, conservation, landscaping, game-keeping and utility services. In 2020/2021 there were 41 fatalities in the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector. The number of deaths has increased; therefore, we need to do more to stay safe at work.

Health and safety certainly is not most people’s favourite subject, and it can seem a little scary and daunting, but we all have a responsibility to work safely and responsibly. The primary piece of legislation that encompasses safety in the workplace is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA).

The image below is a great way to think of health and safety as one big umbrella. From each rib is another piece of legislation, regulation or code of practice we need to follow and adhere to. It is a very big umbrella!

Health and Safety At Work Act 1974
Health and Safety At Work Act 1974 Infographic

Under HASAWA, both employers and employees have legal duties. An employer’s responsibilities so far as reasonably practicable are:

  • provision of plant and systems of work that are safe and without risk
  • provision of information, instruction, training, and supervision
  • use, handling, storage and transport of articles and substances
  • provision and maintenance of a working environment that is safe, without risks to health and adequate as regards to facilities and welfare arrangements

Employees must:

  • take reasonable care of their own health and safety
  • take reasonable care of someone else's health and safety
  • use safety provisions correctly, so do not interfere or misuse any equipment provided
  • co-operate with their employer

This is further elaborated under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) that places duties on businesses and organisations to ensure equipment provided for use at work is:

  • suitable for use
  • safe for use, maintained in a safe condition and inspected in some cases
  • used only by people who have received adequate training, information, and instruction
  • accompanied by suitable safety measures, such as markings, controls, and warning stickers

But what comes under PUWER?

The assumption is that it is only equipment with engines and that is certainly not the case! PUWER covers any equipment used by an employee at work including manual equipment, such as secateurs, drills, ladders, photocopiers through to vehicles, chainsaws, brushcutters, chipper and even leaf blowers. Therefore as a professional person working within the countryside and to ensure that legislation is being followed and adhered to, you could find yourself requiring some level of training.

Training and your options

ATV sit astride and trailer training (Demelza Lowe)
ATV sit astride and trailer training (Demelza Lowe)

Working with the countryside, there are two main awarding organisations in the UK: City and Guilds / NPTC and Lantra. The most important point to note is that these organisations are recognised in industry and by insurance providers. Other options are available, however, ensure you double check with your insurance, trade associations and with any contracts before completion, as it could prove a costly mistake to discover after the fact that it isn’t recognised. This is something we at Lowe Maintenance are being asked about more and more.

Through completing your training with an accredited awarding organisation, you can rest assured that they have very specific standard setting and are overseen by Ofqual. So, no matter where the training takes place, every candidate will cover and achieve the same objectives in their assessments. Employers can rest assured that training is covered fully and comprehensively.

You maybe didn’t appreciate that it isn’t just the land based agricultural colleges that provide these short courses and there are hundreds of private training providers who are running short courses, many of whom are fully qualified teachers with fantastic and relevant industry experience covering the following sectors:

  • forestry and arboriculture
  • pesticides
  • livestock
  • land based machinery
  • plant machinery
  • health and safety
  • pest control

And with such a vast range of courses available if you work or volunteer within one of these sectors, you will require training. Are you:

  • an arborist or tree surgeon
  • someone who works in conservation, such as a ranger
  • a farmer for arable or livestock
  • felling or planting trees in large scale forestry
  • an ecologist
  • working within the utility sector, railway, council, highways
  • a landscaper, horticulturalist, gardener
  • working as a gamekeeper
  • or housing associations

Whatever countryside industry you work in, there is a requirement for you to have had training in all aspects of your work, for you to stay safe, along with other people and the environment.

Here at Lowe Maintenance, we provide over thirty different courses within the countryside sectors and beyond. We have been offering City and Guilds / NPTC short courses since 2004, as fully qualified teachers and have a passion for our subjects. Candidates attend our courses in Settle, North Yorkshire from all over the UK and internationally.

Some of our most popular courses include:

  • Chainsaw maintenance, cross cutting and fell small trees up to 380mm (formerly CS30-31)
  • Ecologist tree climbing and aerial rescue (formerly CS38)
  • ROLO Operatives: health, safety and environmental awareness
  • Brushcutters and trimmers
  • Safe use of pesticides, PA1, PA6, PA2
  • ATV sit astride and trailer
  • Using a chainsaw from a rope and harness
Demelza Lowe during a brushcutter and trimmer course (Demelza Lowe)
Demelza Lowe during a brushcutter and trimmer course (Demelza Lowe)

Demelza Lowe (the face of the business) is also an assessor for some of the short courses with City and Guilds / NPTC. She has also spent the last two years putting many of the heavily theory-based courses online as e-learning options. There is still a requirement to attend a face-to-face assessment, but through e-learning, candidates can work the courses in around their work schedules, complete them step by step, dipping in and out so they don’t become overwhelmed. This is a new pioneering approach for the traditional skills within the countryside.

Courses under this route currently available are:

  • Safe use of aluminium phosphides
  • Safe use of sheep dip
  • PA1 handling and application of pesticides
  • PA6pp Ecoplugs
  • PA6inj stem injection

With more to follow in the future, so watch this space!

For any questions about training and your responsibilities, please do contact Demelza who is more than happy to have a natter with you. 

See the courses being advertised with CJS here 

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Posted On: 28/03/2022

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