Memorandum by the National Farmers' Union
The National Farmers' Union (NFU), representing
the interests of some 120,000 members involved in commercial agriculture
and horticulture, farmer controlled businesses and those with
a genuine interest in countryside issues, would like to thank
you for giving us the opportunity to give evidence to the above
The agricultural industry is committed to practical,
beneficial and cost effective health and safety in the workplace.
The industry concurs with the general view that healthy and safe
work environments promote good productivity in addition to preventing
accidents. The industry, through the NFU, believes in co-operating
closely with HSE to promote sensible policies on health and safety.
In this respect the NFU are involved with HSE on a number of industry
liaison panels and are involved in one off projects to further
responsible action on health and safety. The NFU commit time and
resources through its permanent staff and the direct involvement
of its farming members in achieving these aims. This should be
a continuing process.
The NFU believes that a good working relationship
should, and indeed does, exist with HSE but also continual assessment
of current and proposed legislation is required. There are, therefore,
areas of the HSE's role that could be improved and these will
be explored later in this document.
The majority of farms represented by the NFU
fall into the category of small to medium sized enterprises. The
consolidation currently under way in the agricultural sector coupled
with increasing competition in the marketplace have created additional
commercial pressures in recent years. This has led to a situation
Capital expenditure has been squeezed
to the point where investment has been halted and the lifecycle
of machinery has had to be increased.
There are less physical resources
(both mechanical and human) undertaking more work.
The HSE needs to recognise these factors when
considering the impact of current and new regulations in agriculture.
To benefit the industry and its employees the HSE's approach needs
to minimise the impact of health and safety regulation whilst
securing the necessary safety standards required.
The approach to new Directives and Regulations
Be pragmatic and minimalistic. Rather
than exceed the requirements laid out in European legislation
UK legislation should mirror the requirements.
Reflect the current trend and be,
as far as possible, non-prescriptive in application.
Maintain the "so far as is reasonably
practicable" approach. It is accepted that there are occasions
where there will be absolute and reasonably practicable duties
on employers but the need for employers to be able to balance
cost/risk must be maximised.
The NFU have always endorsed good quality enforcement
activity. However, the approach to enforcement by HSE does not
always reflect the nature of our industry.
Account must always be taken of:
The seasonal nature of agriculture
and therefore the difficulties encountered when using casual staff.
The specialist machinery and equipment
used in agriculture is often mothballed and only used for short
periods each year.
The unpredictable climate conditions
often endured in UK agriculture mean that those who work in the
industry have to, by necessity, work long and unsociable hours.
The NFU believes that enforcement needs to be
carried out by suitably qualified and professional staff. Enforcement
activity is currently undertaken by HSE inspectors and Environmental
Health Officers appointed by local authorities.
The NFU wish to see the continuation of enforcement
in this manner and would not support any diminution in the quality
of enforcement by use of individuals or bodies who lacked the
expertise of HSE inspectors and local authority EHO's.
There is widespread feeling in the industry
that the written information and that available through the Internet
by HSE is generally both useful and of high quality.
There is concern, however, that when seeking
advice from HSE inspectors or EHO's there is a risk of inevitable
attention being drawn to the agricultural concern from where the
There is a constant move towards a requirement
for independently assessed training in a whole range of work activities
related to agriculture.
There is a wealth of experience held by thousands
of individuals that need not be backed by a certificate. There
is a need for a greater recognition and application of "grandfather
rights" to be applied in relation to new legislation.
Transport and Health and Safety Adviser