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Calls for focus on farm safety as 39 killed in a year

Farming | Published:

Transport – overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles – caused most deaths.

Farm Safety Week runs from July 15 to July 19

A charity has called for more focus on farm safety as figures show 39 people were killed as a result of farming and agriculture in the past year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said agriculture has the worst rate of worker fatal injury of the main industrial sectors – 18 times as high as the average rate across all industries.

Two three-year-old children were among 39 people killed between April 1 2018 and March 31 2019, according to the HSE’s report, Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain.

There were six more deaths than the previous year and six more than the five-year average.

The two children were among seven members of the public killed, while nearly half of the workers killed were 60 or older.

Transport – overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles – caused most deaths.

Other deaths were caused by injuries involving cattle, falling from height, being struck by an object such as a bale, contact with machinery, asphyxiation or drowning in grain silo or water, and another incident involved barbed wire.

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Speaking ahead of Farm Safety Week, Stephanie Berkeley of the Farm Safety Foundation said: “Each and every fatal accident in farming is one too many in an industry that we rely on to put food on our plates every day.

“The farming industry is vital to the UK economy – it is the bedrock of our food and drink industry.

“On a farm, as with any business, the number one resource is the people, so why is it that farmers still give more attention to their livestock, crops and machinery than to themselves and their own wellbeing?

“This needs to change and to change now before another family has to suffer the unimaginable. The time has come to sit up, take note and make a change.”

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A HSE spokeswoman said: “It is very concerning that there was an increase in the number of fatal injuries in agriculture in the last work year.

“These statistics act as a stark reminder that the industry needs to focus its efforts on managing risk so that everyone can go home healthy and safe from work.

“While this increase may not be a trend from year to year, the underlying fatal injury rate for agriculture for the past five years has remained largely static and is the highest of all industries.

“It is an unenviable poor record and the industry must do more to work together and make the changes it clearly needs.

“In agriculture, forestry and fishing, the causes of fatal incidents and the steps that need to be taken to prevent them are well known.

“These deaths do not need to happen and are not an inevitable part of farming.

“It is a challenge to get parts of the industry to accept that they are not managing risks well and the number of fatal incidents should be a wake-up call for the industry.

“We should remember that any change in numbers provides little comfort to the family, friends and colleagues of those whose lives were cut short this year on farms.

“It is particularly sad as, once again, the deaths include two children who have died as a result of an agricultural activity.”

Farm Safety Week, running from July 15 to July 19, started in 2013 and has grown to include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Its goal is to inspire farmers to look after their physical and mental wellbeing and reduce the number of life-changing and life-ending accidents on farms.

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