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Should Alcohol Testing Be Brought In For Farming Industry?

Posted: 21/05/2018

An alcohol and drug safety expert has suggested that alcohol testing be brought in as part of health and safety on farms. While the government’s drink-drive campaign highlights the dangers of being drunk behind the wheel of a vehicle on a public road each and every year, it’s also worth thinking about the rules while operating machinery at work or driving on private farmland.

Suzannah Robin, who works for AlcoDigital, explained to Farming UK just how important testing and technology can be with regards to health and safety in the farming industry.

Health and Safety Executive statistics for the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries in Great Britain for 2016/2017 show that 30 people were killed because of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the 12-month period.

Transport, such as being struck by moving vehicles or vehicles overturning, resulted in the most deaths. And it’s also worth noting that agriculture has the highest rate of fatal injury of all main industry sectors, about 18 times higher than the all-industry rate.

It was found that nine people were killed when struck by farm vehicles, six were killed when trapped by something collapsing, five when struck by objects such as bales, equipment or tree branches, two were killed by animals, three by contact with electricity, two falling from height, one by contact with machinery, one by asphyxiation and one when struck against something fixed.

Ms Robin – who has helped companies around the UK implement alcohol testing policies and procedures – noted that ensuring a robust health and safety policy is in place, is fundamental to creating and maintaining safe systems of work and a safe environment on farms, and a drugs and alcohol testing policy is a sensible part of this.

If an employee does return with a positive result from a screening test, the company in question should retest the member of staff using an approved breathalyser so as to make sure that all information collected is certified accurate and can potentially be used as legal evidence in the future if necessary.

Ms Robin also suggested that alcohol interlocks be used, equipment that is installed on machinery or vehicles that prevents them from being started up until a negative breath test has been given.

Of course, illegal substances such as cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine and so on are naturally entirely prohibited but it’s also worth warning staff members about prescription or over-the-counter medication, which could mean they’re putting their health and safety, and that of others around them, at risk.

Before starting a course of treatment, always talk to a doctor, healthcare professional or pharmacist and always speak to your employer to prevent possible misunderstandings in the future, Ms Robin further advised.

If you need help or advice putting your emergency response planning teams in place, get in touch with us here at HFR Solutions CIC today.