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Lighter seed bags to reduce agricultural handling problems

HSE InfoLine : 20 January, 2004  (Company News)
There should be fewer bad backs among workers in agriculture when an agreement to switch to smaller bags for seed comes into effect. The agreement was initiated by the Health and Safety Commission's Health in Agriculture Group.
Certified seed suppliers and farm-saved seed mobile cleaners have agreed to stop using 50kg bags by the autumn of 2007. The move comes following discussions between the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors and HIAG.

Roger Nourish, Acting Chief Inspector of Agriculture and chair of HIAG, said 'More workers in agriculture suffer from bad backs than in any other industry and there is wide agreement that we need to move people away from handling bags of seed weighing 50 kg.'

The 2001/02 self-reported work-related injury survey shows that of those who have worked in agriculture in the past eight years, 3.8% have sustained a musculoskeletal injury, compared with 2.3% in general manufacturing and 3.6% in construction.

He went on to say 'HIAG asked the AIC to investigate the scope for reducing the weight of bagged seed and they have responded with positive proposals to move away from 50kg bags. This is a good example of collaborative working where the risk of injury is being addressed at source.'

The AIC found an ongoing shift from manual to bulk handling of agricultural seed, particularly in arable areas. However they also identified a continuing demand for bagged seed especially amongst livestock farmers growing small acreages of cereals.

Paul Rooke of the AIC said 'With a general move towards bulk handling on the one hand and smaller pack sizes at the other, our members felt they could play their part in reducing the risk of injury amongst their customers. The lead-in time allows suppliers to spread the cost of changes to capital equipment.

Jill Hewitt speaking of behalf of the NAAC's mobile seed processors group said: 'Our members felt that there was a sufficiently strong case for discontinuing supply in 50 kg bags and support this move.'

Action on the manual handling of loads is part of a programme to reduce injuries from musculo-skeletal disorders, which is one of eight key programmes in the Health and Safety Commission's strategy up to 2010.
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