Farming work ‘one of most dangerous jobs’
Agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries despite lower fatality figures in the past 12 months, a Shropshire farm insurance specialist has said.
Figures from the Health and Safety Executive reveal that in 2016/17 one farm worker was killed in the West Midlands in the past 12 months – making it the safest region in Britain.
Doug Stead, who worked as an agricultural contractor, had been driving a tractor in a field off Arbour Lane, Bishop’s Castle last year. The 65-year-old suffered a cardiac arrest and died at the scene after becoming trapped underneath the vehicle.
In total, 30 people have been killed on British farms in the past year.
Rob Matthews, of Shrewsbury-based farm insurance specialist Lycetts, said: “It is worrying that agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries, with the high fatality rate far-exceeding other industries.
“HSE’s research shows that vehicle-related activities consistently lead to more deaths than any other category, and that half of the workers killed by something collapsing were taking part in activities involving vehicles and machinery.
“So, while some of these deaths have been the result of freak accidents, many could have been prevented.
“Although this is a sad fact, this gives us hope that, with better practice on farms and safer use of machinery, incidents like this could become rarer.
“It is also promising to see that, although the fatal injury rate for agriculture has shown no clear trend over the past 35 years, there are signs of improvement over the past five years.
“Hopefully this is down to farmers being more vigilant about safety and risk assessments – but we still have a way to go.”
Whilst 27 of the past year’s deaths involved workers, three were members of the public. Nearly half of the workers killed in agriculture were over 65 and more than 85 per cent of workers killed were aged over 45.
Mr Matthews added: “What strikes me is the high death rate of older workers. Health and safety is a fundamental requirement of any farming operation, no matter how small or well-established it is, and minimising risk should be top priority.
“It is also alarming that self-employed farmers make up a large proportion of deaths.
“There is a danger that farmers who work for themselves harbour a perception that they do not need to carry out the necessary risk assessments or abide by the health and safety regulations, as they don’t have any employees. But, as this research shows, this can have devastating consequences.
“It may also be a case of farmers, due to economic constraints, are having to manage difficult and labour-heavy jobs by themselves or with limited resources – and are therefore putting themselves at increased risk.
“It is imperative that farmers take health and safety seriously and do their utmost to protect themselves, their employees and the public, as well as procuring comprehensive insurance cover in case a tragic incident like this does occur.”