When thinking in terms of any type of health and safety work or issues, the term environment is perhaps one of the key elements. The type of environment that someone works in will to a large extent determine the nature of risk that may affect any aspect of their well-being or safety.
Farms are in many ways unique environments, in that they often combine a work place or environment with a family or home environment, which can lead to blurring of lines, and inadvertent lapses in safety management.
Farms can vary considerably in size, and in terms of the products that they produce. Differences in land size can make a difference to safety risks. A farm can potentially be a small as 10 acres, or as large as 10,000 acres, although the majority of farms tend to be between 100 and 200 acres.
Farms can grow and raise a wide priority of different products. Some are animal products such as beef and dairy, sheep and poultry. Other farms will produce different types of crop such as corn, soy bean and wheat.
There are also more specialist types of farms that can produce nuts, fruits and vegetables.
Whatever the size of the farm, and whatever produce is grown or reared, there is an inherent difference regarding farm land.Whilst a lot of farm land can be level, an awful lot it is often also quite hilly or steep.
This can present real practical problems and safety risks concerning tractors, quad bikes and ATVs, which can easily overturn on ground that is not level. Quite often quad bikes and ATVs tends to be used by people in their late teens and early 20s, who may not have sufficient driving experience to fully understand the risks or implications of land that is not level.
The other issue concerning farmland is the weather. Depending upon where the farm is located, there is a considerable dependence on different types of weather conditions. This means that there is impractical terms often very little protection against the elements, even if work is being done in various hangers or sheds.
Whilst these issues can be easily managed and taken care of in terms of risk assessment and health and safety, one of the main issues concerning safety on a farm is that of attitude. Because farms are quite often family environments, even if they employ people as well, there is naturally a much more laid back and warm and friendly approach to both people and the work.
Quite often the discipline of an office or factory environment is lacking, and this is often one of the attractions of farming and farmers to many people. So long as this is understood, and measures are taken to make sure that risk assessment and safety assessment is carried out at professional level, then both can sit quite happily together.
In addition, many farms that are family owned and operated take great pride in the fact that their family is actively involved in all aspects of the running of the farm. This is not to promote child labor, but quite often younger family members do the work that would otherwise be considered a form of employment.
Inevitably, this means that there are not the same labor related restrictions in place as they would be in a factory, and there would not necessarily be the same health and safety regulations that might apply as well.
The other issue concerning the farm as an environment, is that all farms are different. This means that there is no real uniformity which is normally a pre-condition for most health and safety policies in an office or factory type environment.
It means that the farm itself needs to pay specific attention to its own environment, and determine its own level of risk, and put in place any safety measures needed to minimize the risk of harm or injury.