It won’t come as a surprise to many people that working in agriculture, forestry and fishing can be a dangerous occupation but sadly we’ve seen a particularly high number of deaths in the sector during the past year.
During the latest Farm Safety Week, the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) issued its ‘Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21’ report which showed that agriculture has the worst rate of fatal injuries of all the major industrial sectors, around 20 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries.
During 2020/21, 41 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities – that’s 18 more deaths than the previous year and is sadly the highest number of deaths recorded in the last five years. In fact, it is eight more than the industry’s five-year average of 33 deaths.
More than half of the workers killed during 2020/21 were aged 60 or older but the youngest person to die was a two-year-old child.
While the cause of deaths varies each year, the five most common causes were being struck by moving vehicles, killed by animals, contact with machinery, struck by an object and fall from height.
These causes are broadly consistent with the top causes of deaths in the sector over the past five years which suggests these are areas where more might need to be done to protect people or educate them about the dangers.
In fact, just a couple of weeks ago the HSE publicly announced that more needed to be done to improve farm safety after it was notified of four fatalities on farms in just over a fortnight.
Those fatalities included the death of a three-year-old boy in Wales and a suspected cattle-trampling in Marshfield. There was also a report of a separate incident involving members of the public being attacked by cattle.
HSE’s acting head of agriculture Adrian Hodkinson said: “While we must respect the ongoing investigations following these tragic incidents, most injuries or deaths that we’ve historically seen on farms have been both predictable and preventable.
“Despite the efforts of the Farm Safety Partnership in particular, an industry-wide change in attitude is needed for farmers to take action to protect themselves and others to the well-known risks they face.
“At this time of year, we have additional factors such as the school holidays and higher numbers of members of the public enjoying the summer weather and walking along public footpaths through fields with cattle.
“But we ask that farmers, farm workers and farming contractors take the right steps to stop these incidents. At this time of year, it’s important to manage risk from livestock and, with harvest well underway, to work safely with farm machinery.
“The fatality rate within the sector is high, but there are simple measures workers can take to reduce risk including making sure to switch off the power to vehicles or machinery before attempting to carry out repairs, keeping people away from moving vehicles; and ensuring dairy bulls, and cows with calves are not in fields with public footpaths.
“We are urging people who work on farms to make safety a priority and help us to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the industry.”
Workers within the sector are also encouraged to seek help and advice from any of the Farm Safety Partnerships or leading farming organisations if they require guidance and support for specific tasks or activities.
At Acorn Safety Services, we live and breathe health and safety and nothing saddens us more than hearing of workplace fatalities.
Our experienced team works closely with businesses across all sectors to identify risks in their particular workplaces. We provide advice on how risks can be controlled and ensure that all businesses successfully meet the required health and safety standards.
Clients who work with us have peace of mind knowing that we are always here for them when it comes to meeting their legal obligations as an employer with regard to keeping people safe and health and safety matters.