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Like all businesses, rural businesses must carry out a first aid needs assessment in order to determine what level of provision is needed to comply with health and safety legislation. This assessment involves a careful examination of all hazards and the potential harm that they could do. After evaluating the risks, businesses should implement measures to eliminate or minimise these risks) and make appropriate first aid arrangements. It is also recommended to regularly review the measures implemented to maintain the lowest risk level possible.
There are many hazards in a rural workplace; some are common to all workplaces like slips and trips hazards, but there are also more specific risks like the use of tools and machinery, chemicals (i.e. fertilizers, pesticides), manual handling or working at height.
One risk which specifically affects more rural businesses is the fact that the premises can be isolated from urban areas and emergency services such as ambulances, hospitals or fire stations. The national standard for an ambulance to arrive is 8 minutes, but it could take longer to reach remote businesses and an incident or emergency can become serious in only a few minutes. It makes it even more important for rural businesses to take this into account when planning first aid arrangements.
Rural businesses are usually SMEs employing up to 250 employees. Employers are not always aware of the regulations and support services in place or can be far from first aid training premises. It is also thought that statistics of farm accident occurrence are considerably underestimated due to under-reporting.
Many SMEs in rural areas could benefit from more guidance on health and safety issues, as employers do not always actively seek advice unless there is a current or specific issue. Some SMEs lack confidence to make decisions or are unsure of which course of action to take for their business.
There are different ways rural businesses could approach health & safety at work:
Health and safety magazines
Health & safety handbooks
Site-specific in-house training
Workplace visits (i.e. HSE representative)
It should be emphasized that adopting good health and safety practices can have many benefits for rural businesses, and should not be perceived as a burden. These benefits include:
Employees protected from accidents and ill health
Reduced risks of accidents and incidents
Reduced costs (insurance premiums, legal claims, direct and indirect absence costs)
Increased productivity (healthier employees are happier and more motivated)
Better reputation and increased standing with suppliers and business partners