Farming fatality figures almost double in a year

There was a depressing start to Farm Safety Week yesterday, with the release of official figures which showed that the death rate in the industry had almost doubled over the past 12 months.

Farm injuries have doubled
Farm injuries have doubled

Provisional figures released by the Health and Safety Executive covering April 2020 until March 2021 showed 41 people were killed in agriculture related activities, compared with 23 deaths over the same period in the previous year.

The report also shows that agriculture continues to have the worst rate of fatal injuries of all major industrial sectors – close to 20 times higher than the average figure.The HSE said that while the number of people killed on farms fluctuated each year, the most common causes of fatal injuries remained steady – being struck by moving vehicles, killed by an animal, struck by an object, falling from height and contact with moving machinery.Transport-related incidents, such as overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles were responsible for more deaths than any other cause.

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The report also highlighted that older workers were most at risk, with more than half of workers killed aged 60 years or older.

When comparing older and younger age groups, the fatal injury rate was more than four times higher for the 65s and over, compared to the 16-24 age group. The youngest person killed was a two-year-old child who died after being overcome by slurry fumes.

Agriculture is a vital part of our economy and everyone involved is rightly proud of the quality and standard of the food produced,” said acting head of agriculture at HSE, Adrian Hodkinson.

However, he said it wasn’t acceptable that agriculture continued to fail to manage risk in the workplace:

“We need everyone to play their part to improve their behaviour, do things the right way and ‘call out’ poor practices whenever they are seen.”

He said that agriculture would remain a priority sector for HSE, through the executive’s sector plan for tackling the high rates of injury and ill health.

“It is disappointing to be highlighting another high annual fatality rate in the industry when the causes are well known and the precautions to avoid injury are straightforward.

“There are simple safety measures people should follow to reduce injury like remembering to put on handbrakes, fasten lap belts in cabs, make sure anyone operating a quad bike wears a helmet and receives sufficient training, don’t put cows and calves in fields with public footpaths; and make sure to switch off the power to vehicles or machinery before attempting to carry out repairs.”Commenting on the figures, Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation said that in a year where the number of deaths almost doubled the industry had to take a more serious approach and ask itself:

“Why are farmers continuing to ignore the issue of safety? Why are twice as many over 60s having life-ending incidents on farms compared to the rest of the industry? And what are we going to do about it?

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