Drive to reduce deaths in UK’s most dangerous job

A campaign to stem the string of deaths in the farming industry in the UK has been launched. Picture: TSPLA campaign to stem the string of deaths in the farming industry in the UK has been launched. Picture: TSPL
A campaign to stem the string of deaths in the farming industry in the UK has been launched. Picture: TSPL
A CAMPAIGN aimed at reducing the tragic death toll on Scottish farms and crofts - with almost 80 lives being lost in the last decade - has been launched.

The industry has become the most dangerous occupation in the UK, outstripping deaths and injuries occurring in the construction and offshore industries.

The staggering number of fatalities involving men, women and four children in the last 10 years was revealed at the Black Isle Show in the Highlands as a new partnership to tackle the issue of safety was unveiled.

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Just earlier this month, 18-year-old Zach Fox died after falling into a silo at a farm in Denholm, near Hawick, in the Scottish Borders. An investigation is underway. A young child was also recently killed in a tragedy in Ireland.

Statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that, of the 76 killed in the last decade, nine died in incidents involving livestock.

A further 26 people were killed by vehicles overturning or being struck by a moving vehicle.

Another 13 died in falls, while six people have been killed when they came into contact with working machinery or equipment.

The consequences have brought a catalogue of heartbreak and misery to dozens of Scottish families and rural communities.

The Farm Safety Scotland Partnership, launched at the biggest agriculture event in the Highlands, is aimed at improving the safety record of those who live and work on farms and crofts.

The initiative involves the National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland, insurers NFU Mutual, HSE and the Scottish Government.

A new campaign leaflet “Working Together to Save Lives” has also been produced.

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It outlines the four most common dangers – Falls, Animals, Transport and Equipment (FATE) – and urges farmers not to leave their own safety, and that of employees and family, to “FATE”.

NFU Scotland Vice President Allan Bowie said: “Tragic incidents in the past few days across the UK and Ireland remind everyone that farms can be dangerous places so it is important that everyone on a farm takes the necessary steps so that they can stay safe while farming.

“The Farm Safety Partnership intends to change behaviours and attitudes by promoting the steps that can be done to reduce the risks of common farm jobs.

“Most people will be able to recall a close call situation that could so easily have resulted in serious injury or even fatality.

“By adopting some simple steps as part of everyday working practices we can reduce the number of accidents and deaths on Scotland’s farms.”

Martin Malone, NFU Mutual Scotland Manager, said that, as the insurer of the majority of Scottish farms, they were all too aware of the dreadful impact that deaths and serious injuries had on farming families.

He added: “The establishment of the partnership provides a focus for organisations involved in agriculture to work together and use their combined skills and experience to produce a less dangerous working environment.

“Whilst other industries – including construction – have seen accidents fall sharply in recent years, the number of people killed and injured on our farms has remained high and farming is now the most dangerous occupation in Great Britain.

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Rick Brunt, Head of Agriculture in the Health and Safety Executive said: “The high rate of deaths in the farming sector underlines the industry’s poor record of managing risks.

“Every year too many people are needlessly killed and injured on farms in Scotland.”

“This Partnership is a massive step forward in the industry working to tackle the issues and creating a safer future.”

Rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead attended the launch and said: “Our men and women working in the farming industry to bring food to our tables do so in often hazardous conditions and this can sometimes have tragic consequences.

“Every single tragedy is one too many and it is therefore essential that everyone working in the industry understands the risks and takes every available precaution to stay as safe as possible.

“By raising awareness and providing safety information and tips, the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland has the potential to save lives and prevent injury.”

The total number of deaths among workers over the ten years was 66, while 10 deaths - including four children - were members of the public.

In March, Jim Sharp, 66, who farmed near Lauder in the Borders, died while operating a grain auger.

It was one of eight deaths in 2013/14.

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Others included a 37-year-old self-employed agricultural mechanic was killed when both tractor and plough overturned into a ravine and a 39-year-old self-employed farmer who was dragged into a combine harvester.

There was also a 66-year-old self-employed farmer who died when he was dragged into a silo and a 78-year-old member of the public who was attacked by a bull.

Just recently, an eight-year old boy who became overcome by slurry fumes at a County Antrim farm died.

Robert Christie had been helping his 52-year-old father, also called Robert, to mix slurry on a farm near Dunloy when they both fell sick.

The most high profile deaths in recent years happened in September 2012, when Ulster rugby player Nevin Spence, his father Noel and brother Graham died after they were overcome by fumes on their family farm.

The inquest into their deaths was told it was the worst farming tragedy in Northern Ireland for 20 years.

Following the launch, leaders of key farming organisations signed a pair of nine-feet tall yellow wellies which are the symbol of the Farm Safety Foundation (FSF).

The FSF is a charitable foundation set up by NFU Mutual because of its concern over the continuing high level of accidents on farms.