Safety warning to farmers

Farmers are being urged to take extra care following the conclusion of a fatal accident inquiry into the tragic death of Lauder farmer, Jim Sharp earlier this year. 

The 66-year-old, a self-employed farmer at Newbigging Walls Farm, died after he became entangled with a sweep auger in a grain silo. 

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and NFU Scotland have today urged all farmers to remember to use the safe stop procedure when working with any agricultural machinery: 

–          Put the handbrake on.

–          Make sure the controls are in neutral (equipment made safe).

–          Stop the engine (or turn off the power).

–          Remove the key (or lock-off the power supply). 

This is particularly important to remember when carrying out maintenance or repairs when you may be working with guards removed or in closer proximity to the moving parts. 

Use a padlock to prevent the power being turned on accidentally or remove the ignition key and keep the key with you until the work is complete. 

Do not enter grain silos with the auger running – use the safe stop procedure. Sweep augers move slowly but have been responsible for several accidents – usually fatal – where the individual has become entangled by a boot lace or clothing.

Do not enter grain silos to clear blockages of any kind unless the power is isolated and there is no chance of bridging in the grain – drowning in grain silos can occur when a person sinks into the grain as the silo empties. Also consider lack of oxygen in the silo, particularly if the grain could be damp/contaminated or if it is a sealed silo. 

The safety message also follows the launch of a newly formed farm safety partnership in Scotland in August. Members include NFU Scotland, NFU Mutual, Scottish Government, and HSE.  

The Farm Safety Partnership for Scotland will focus on four key areas: falls from height; livestock incidents; workplace transport; and machinery incidents. These four areas account for around 70% of the fatal injuries in Scotland and also feature in the leaflet “Don’t leave it to FATE” (Falls, Animals, Transport and Equipment) and are as relevant to England and Wales as they are in Scotland.  

HSE inspector Hazel Dobb said: “The tragic death of Mr Sharp has once again brought home the dangers involved in the farming industry, particularly when working with agricultural machinery. 

“We are working closely with the industry and NFU Scotland to highlight the dangers and would urge all those involved in the industry to take care and remember the safe stop procedure when working with machinery.”

 NFU Scotland Vice President Allan Bowie said: “Mr Sharp was a well-known, well-respected member of the Borders farming community and his death remains a tragic loss.  Farming remains one of the most hazardous industries to work in and the loss of an important industry figure like Mr Sharp simply strengthens the Union’s resolve and commitment to work with others and improve our sector’s health and safety record.

“Attendance at the recent round of health and safety farm events in Scotland has been hugely positive and I would urge all Scottish farmers and their staff to read the “Don’t leave it to FATE” leaflet produced by the Scottish Farm Safety Partnership for some simple tips on how to avoid injury on farms.” 

The Scotland Farm Safety Partnership leaflet “Don’t leave it to FATE” is available at: 

HSE publication “Safe Working with Agricultural Machinery” is available for free via the HSE website 

Notes to Editors  

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.  
  2. Further HSE news releases are available at

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