Resources for setting up and developing your Gleaning group

7. Health & Safety

Gleaning is a fun day out for all, for a worthy cause. However, it is important to be mindful of a few factors regarding health and safety. By familiarising yourself with a few simple simple procedures, you will be able to prevent and minimise the risk of incidents and accidents, and ensure the safety of your volunteers.

Head to Chapter 11 for the printable health and safety checklist

Getting Started

In order to be part of the Gleaning Network, we ask for your group to have the following things in place:

  1. Your group has a public liability insurance policy that covers gleaning activities.
  2. One of more members of your team are trained in emergency first aid
  3. You have your own version of a risk assessment, updated annually (and including any site specific risks on the farms you will be gleaning at)
  4. You have a prepared briefing for volunteers (covering health and safety)
  5. You know what to do in the event of incidents or accidents


As you will be responsible for volunteers, we highly recommend having public liability insurance. When purchasing insurance, make sure to check the following:

  • the policy documents explicitly mention volunteer insurance
  • check if there are upper/lower age limits
  • make sure the policy covers the types of activities like gleaning

Risk Assessments

An example of our general risk assessment can be found here. These need to be done for each gleaning day to minimise the risks. Please feel free to use our template, but you will need to create your own.

First Aid

You will need to have at least one person who is First Aid trained attending the gleaning day. We recommend the one day level 2 first aid qualification ‘Emergency First Aid at work’

Injuries and Accidents

If anyone on your glean has an accident or injury, no matter how small, it is important to log and record the injury. Below is an example.

On the day

Top Tip!

If the farmer is present, as if they are able to guide the volunteers on how to harvest and transport the produce.

On the day, gather your volunteers and run through a safety briefing, including the points covered below.

Make sure to demonstrate how to correctly and safely harvest the produce, an improper techniques can be unsafe and/or lead to injury. Check with the farmer if there are any areas of the land that need to be avoided.

Dangerous tools, heavy lifting & ladders

You may be surrounded by various pieces of potentially dangerous equipment when in the fields harvesting the surplus produce. Most health and safety procedures are common sense but make sure to highlight the potential hazards on the farm, to make your volunteers aware.

There is likely to be a lot of lifting of crates throughout the day. Make yourself aware of the correct way to carry heavy equipment and demonstrate this during your health and safety briefing.

Some produce (like top fruit) may require the use of ladders. Ensure there is always one person standing at the base of the ladder and that the feet of the ladder are on secure ground. Again, make sure to demonstrate this in the briefing.

Useful documents

Appropriate clothing

Advise volunteers to wear appropriate clothing: Hardy shoes, or wellies, warm and waterproof clothing, and something they don’t mind getting dirty.

Local hospitals

Just in case somebody is taken seriously ill or injured, it’s important to know the details of the nearest hospital.

Health and Safety of Knives

Some produce may require knives to harvest – for instance, cabbages and cauliflower. Children under 18 will not be able to attend a gleaning day where harvesting knives will be used. All volunteers using harvesting knives are required to wear cut-resistant safety gloves.

Before the Gleaning day

  • Ensure that you have enough safety gloves for all volunteers, with some spares. 
  • Check the knives’ sharpness, and sharpen if needed. 

Safety Gloves

The number 1 priority for ensuring health and safety is:

Ensure all volunteers using knives are wearing cut-resistant safety gloves (on both hands).

The knives are very sharp, and 84% of injuries from knives reported to HSE are to the hands or fingers.

If you do not have enough cut-resistant gloves for all volunteers, then those volunteers without gloves should not use the harvesting knives—instead, allocate them jobs like putting the vegetables into crates and moving the crates to the vehicle. 

Other precautions on the day


Any accidents that happen, no matter how minor, need to be logged at the end of the day. 

  • Keep the knives in their protective sheathes and box when not in use.
  • Transport the knives to the closest place possible to where volunteers are working in the field.
  • Supervise volunteers to nip any dangerous behaviour in the bud and to ensure that they are using the knives safely.
  • Ensure there is a clear, safe place for volunteers to put knives down when out of use— one of the plastic crates, clearly identified, is a good container to use. 

Health & Safety Knife Talk

First Aid

Ensure that your first aid kit is easy to access at the side of the field in case of accidents. 

Key points you need to communicate:

  1. When standing still or walking with the knife, keep the blade down
  2. Be careful when walking with knives on slippery on muddy surfaces (put on their protective sheath if necessary)
  3. When using the knife, make sure you are a safe distance (3 metres) from the person next to you. Always be on the look out for people approaching
  4. Never raise the knife, or swing it around. Keep the cutting as contained as possible
  5. For cutting brassica, hold the head of the vegetable and slice the base, cutting away from yourself. If you need to hack a little because it is tough, keep the blade close to the vegetable base [demonstrate this process]
  6. Never raise the blade above your head
  7. When knives are not being used, make sure they are all placed inside a clearly identified sturdy container
  8. Do not put knives down anywhere where they cannot be clearly seen and might be stepped on, or lost in the field.
  9. Place knives back in their protective sheaths and box the end of the day.
Read Next Chapter 8. How to stay organised Right Arrow Image
© All Rights Reserved Global Feedback Ltd 2020