Partnership praised for raising farm safety awareness

An awareness campaign to help keep farmers safe when working near power lines has been praised by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).   

Working in partnership, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and the NFU conveyed potential life-saving messaging to farmers and their contractors across central southern England as they worked throughout the harvest.

Running parallel to coverage in local papers and on BBC South Today, where the message reached around 400,000 viewers, the campaign used digital and social platforms to convey the ‘farmer to farmer’ narrative through the ‘Look Up, Look Out!’ safety video. Released just ahead of Farm Safety Week, the three-minute short film featured NFU South East Crops Board chair and Hampshire NFU chair Matt Culley - a farmer and contractor - who shared his safe farming practices and encouraged others to do the same.

Over 13,000 ‘Look Up, Look Out!’ tractor cab stickers were distributed as inserts in the British Farmer & Grower magazine and SSEN’s Director of Operations (South), Craig Gilroy wrote safety articles for the magazine’s August and September editions.

Craig explains why the joint approach to farm safety was so important: “From early conversations with the NFU, we knew that we shared a common goal to help keep farmers safe during the harvest season. It’s an incredibly busy time of year for the farming industry, so by joining forces with the NFU and having members of the farming community relaying the safety messages, we knew we had a much stronger voice when we were asking farmers and contractors to ‘Look Up, Look Out!’, to carry out risk assessments and to keep themselves and their workers safe.

“The NFU used its website to highlight the messaging as the harvest season progressed, promoting the 105 electricity emergency number and, through their online efforts, over 100 further requests were received for the ‘Look Up, Look Out!’ cab stickers. I’d like to thank the NFU for their assistance in helping to raise awareness of the potential dangers of working with machinery near overhead lines and hope this partnership will continue to develop and grow, keeping farmers safe through all the seasons.”

Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire NFU chairman Jeff Powell, an arable farmer from south Oxfordshire, praised the campaign for its farmer-to-farmer approach. He said: “The best thing about the video was that it featured a real, practising farmer, in Matt Culley, who was speaking from experience and that really brought the messages home. Our industry welcomes any tips on staying safe on the farm.”

Drivers of farm machinery face the risk of death or injury if they hit an overhead power line or pole; such incidents have the potential to bring disruption to electricity supplies and restoration costs running in to five-figure sums. During 2016, SSEN recorded more than 100 incidents in its central southern England patch where farm machinery came into contact with poles, overhead lines and cables. Thankfully, none led to injury and it’s hoped that through ongoing partnerships and awareness campaigns, these incidents will decrease year on year.