Farm safety: One death is too many

Popular farm safety app Smart Farmer went live with two new features this month – lone working and field hazard identification – adding to its already impressive list of safety offerings. With the number of farm deaths and injuries still at a troublingly high level, these features are a must-have for farmers and farm workers.

Farm Safety tractors in field

Created by Aberdeenshire farmer Marc Skivington, Smart Farmer app allows farmers and users of agricultural machinery to log checks, maintenance and servicing using a simple traffic light system. Having picked up a range of awards, the app continues to grow, with the latest safety features being Lone Working and Field Hazard Identification.

Farm-related deaths and injuries continue to be reported all too regularly, with the latest HSE figures showing there were 21 deaths on farms in 2019-20. Worker fatalities are known to be 18 times higher in agriculture than the average – with transport being the highest risk.

Lone working

Lone working is commonplace in agriculture and comes with the potential for higher risks and more severe consequences if workers are not able to summon help quickly. Those responsible for farm businesses have a legal duty to themselves and their workers to consider potential health and
safety issues and put in place reasonable measures to ensure safety. With this in mind, the latest Smart Farmer addition, launching this month, will be a welcome feature for the sector and has the potential to save many lives.

Machine operators start their working day by hitting the red record button in the top right-hand corner of the Smart Farmer app. The administrator can set how often they want the system to check workers’ latitude and longitude coordinates. If the system finds the coordinates are the same as the previous reading, an alert will be sent to the administrator and the operator’s phone. The administrator will be sent an email link with the operator’s location, so they can drive to the site to check on their safety if necessary.

At the end of the day, the operator can end their working day in the app to stop tracking.

Field hazard identification

Within the Smart Farmer web portal, fields can now easily be added by the admin of the site, creating a field boundary and utilising the simple key to plot all hazards on the map. Additional hazards can easily be added to the key for future reference.

The GPS tracks the operators and when they are within 20m of a hazard, a notification will alert the user. The alert will continue until the operator acknowledges the alert.

Marc says: “No matter the scale of the business, it only takes a split second for it all to go wrong. No matter how experienced you are, accidents
are unfortunately still happening.”

Commenting on Smart Farmer, he adds: “It’s a simple, practical, operator friendly solution built by a farmer for farmers, to reduce paperwork and allow us to do what we do best in a safer manner – ultimately saving lives.”

What else can the app do?

The app highlights the status of equipment using a simple traffic light system, covering unlimited users and machinery, and can record and print service reports and daily usage of machinery, as well as notifying users when a service is due. It is also possible to take and upload photos of any issues. As a cloud-based service, data is shared with everyone on the farm, so that all team members know the status and condition of the equipment.

Two of the app’s most popular features are the QR code scanner – which allows operators to scan the sticker on a piece of equipment and instantly pull up the checklist, rather than trawling through a long list of options – and the customisable nature of the checks. This allows users to tailor the number and type of checks to suit their farm – for example, focusing on key safety elements such as lights, brakes, tyres and wing mirrors, to ensure staff can complete the checks more quickly.

Other features include risk assessments and training documents. Users can upload PDF risk assessments to the app and add mitigative actions, giving the operator a green, amber or red risk level. The user can see the uploaded risk assessment on the app before operating machinery. In addition, users can upload PDF training documents and create multi-choice questions, allowing machinery operators to train as they go and set dates for refresher courses. YouTube tutorials and a new digital operators’ manual are also on the way to help customers use the Smart Farmer system effectively.

The app has scooped a number of awards, including most recently the Royal Highland Show Silver Award for Technical Innovation. It was also voted British Farming Awards Agri Tech Innovator, a finalist at the Scottish Rural Awards and one of Yellow Wellies’ top five apps of 2020, voted for by farmers.

Marc is showing no signs of stopping and is already planning additional new features. Despite the new updates, the app retains the same yearly subscription cost, and you can sign up for a free 28-day trial.


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