Farmers 'should think more like pilots' for safety, say researchers

Farmers should start thinking like pilots in order to improve safety in the industry, researchers have said.

Recent statistics showed that workers in agriculture were seven times more likely to die than those on a construction site.

After five years of research with farmers, University of Aberdeen psychologist Dr Amy Irwin said lessons could be learned from other industries.

She said changing a few key behaviours could make farming safer.

Check-list suggestions include surroundings - such as being aware of the location of power lines - and tractor safety measures, as well as having a first aid kit.

A number of aviation accidents in the 1970s led to researchers noting that while pilots were fully-trained and competent to fly, they could become complacent, or distracted, and make poor decisions as a result.

Dr Irwin said of farming: "Most of the accidents involve things like being entangled in machinery, knocked over by a vehicle, trampled by a cow, and so it's a really hazardous industry to be part of."

She believes a lead can be taken from other industries - aviation being deemed as the key one - to have an understanding of how areas such as teamwork, leadership and situation awareness can be crucial.

Dr Irwin cited paramedics and surgeons as other professions using similar techniques including check-lists.

She said: "In aviation and a lot of other high-risk industries they have training for all of these skills, farming has nothing, and we're looking to change that.

"So by just changing a few behaviours, we can hopefully make farmers safer, and more effective."

The psychologist explained: "We're conducting research with farmers, finding out more about what they do on a daily basis, finding out what are the issues that might arise that might make things unsafe, then we're taking our research findings and turning them into practical tools, things like check-lists and we've got a new pocket guide for farmers.

"Essentially it's about all the things both within the tractor cab and external to the tractor cab that a farmer has to be aware of.

"Farmers, they're a sort of a hardy bunch, they tend to continue even if they're feeling tired or whatever.

"So an important element of this is also checking yourself, checking how stressed you are, how fatigued or tired you're feeling, and how that might influence your safety operating this heavy machine."

Source: BBC News