A safety course emphasising the importance of non-technical skills is being developed in the University of Aberdeen, the first course of its kind to focus on farming.

Non-technical skills refer to the workplace safety skills of situational awareness and task management which are employed extensively in the high-risk industries of aviation, healthcare and offshore oil drilling.

“Many industries emphasise the importance of non-technical skills, and some, including aviation make it mandatory, however development of these skills has not been addressed in agriculture until now,” said Dr Amy Irwin of the research team.

“The current collaboration builds on our strong foundation of research and practical tools to produce an entirely original farmer training programme that mirrors the techniques used to train non-technical skills in aviation and construction,” she said.

The researchers cited the 14,000 non-fatal farm-related injuries and 39 deaths in the UK during 2018 and 2019 as the motivation for taking an innovative approach to farm safety.


The project has been undertaken by the University of Aberdeen, in collaboration with KURA Human Factors, a group focused on improving risk-based decision-making within organisations.

“We hope that by providing a new, novel, training course in these skills we can turn our research findings into improved safety for farmers,” commented KURA Human Factors’ Niven Phoenix.

One thing is for certain, we cannot continue in the same vein in agriculture with statistics that make it a safety lottery when people leave the security of their homes.

“An evidence-based non-technical skills course for agricultural workers is long overdue. The advent of technology in farming has been astounding, with systems and hardware that have advanced out of sync with the training required to manage the increased risk presented,” he added.