This week is Farm Safety Week. An annual initiative led by the Farm Safety Foundation, it seeks to reduce the number of accidents in farming.
Some 20 farm workers and one member of public – a four-year-old child – were killed on farms over the past year, according to a newly published report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
While this figure was 37.5 per cent lower than the number of deaths in the previous year (32), there is no room for complacency. UK agriculture still has an unwanted record.
“Agriculture is a vitally important part of our economy,” explains Adrian Hodkinson, the HSE’s head of agriculture.
“But every year we report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.
“It is a very sad fact that most of the deaths and life-changing injuries are completely avoidable and the causes well known.
“The precautions to prevent people being killed and/or really seriously injured on farms are usually straightforward.
“It is not acceptable that agriculture continues to fail to manage risk in the workplace.
“We need everyone to play their part to change their own behaviours and do things the right way – rather than the way it’s always been done – and challenge poor practices whenever they are seen.”
On a more positive note, there are indications of changing attitudes to farm safety in the HSE’s latest report.
Adrian added: “It’s fantastic to see more use of working platforms, more hi-vis clothing, that ATV users are getting trained and wearing helmets, and better cattle handling facilities are being installed.”
Stephanie Berkeley, who manages the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “Like any farmer scanning his fields for green shoots, we are doing the same across the industry and we’re optimistic that a change is finally happening.
“This year’s HSE report shows a record year with fatal injuries in the industry at a nearly 40-year low.
“While this is to be encouraged and welcomed, each and every death is one too many.
“We need to work harder to change behaviours and attitudes towards safety and to work in the right way and work well.
“We know that farmers are starting to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest and in the interest of staying safe and staying alive.”
Stephanie added: “Young farmers are coming into the industry with improved attitudes to working safely.
“The message is clear from this year’s report – whether it is due to better training, better agility or better attitudes, young farmers are less likely to have a fatal incident at work than older farmers.
“Last year, half the workers killed were 55 years or older.
“In fact, when comparing older and younger farm worker age groups, the five year fatal injury rate is nearly six times higher for over 65s compared to the 16-24 age group.
“Farm Safety Week may be one week in the year but the Farm Safety Foundation works all year round to educate, engage and communicate strong and relatable farm safety messages and deliver this change and we can not do this alone.
“We are very privileged to have this opportunity to work closely with the farm safety partnerships, health and safety organisations and the farming community to drive safety forward.”
- Farm Safety Week runs from 20-24 July 2020 and is supported by the Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health & Safety Authority, Ireland.
- Now in its eighth year, the initiative brings sees England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales come together with one clear goal – to remind farmers and farm workers to take safety seriously so we can reduce the number of life-changing and life-ending accidents on our farms.
- For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek