‘Farmers face potentially fatal risks on a daily basis’ – Accident figures reveal agriculture’s alarming death toll

Farmers still have a

Farmers still have a "huge way to go" to correct their industry's poor safety record, say Norfolk insurers Lycetts. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

A Norfolk insurer says farmers “still have a huge way to go” to correct their industry’s woeful safety record, after eight people were killed in agricultural accidents in the East of England during the last five years.

New figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 33 people were killed in agriculture, forestry and fishing across Britain in 2017/18, underlining the industry’s reputation as the nation’s most dangerous workplace.

From 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, the East had one of the lowest death rates in Britain, with one farm fatality, but over a five-year period, a total of eight agricultural deaths have been recorded in the region.

George Greenock, a risk expert at the Fakenham office of rural insurance specialist Lycetts, said: “Although the East of England has had one of the lowest death rates this year, one death is one too many.

“Agriculture has a high fatality rate that significantly outstrips that of other industries, with it being more than five times higher than the second most-risky industry, construction.

“It is a hazardous industry, with farmers facing potentially fatal risks on a daily basis, from working with unpredictable animals to potentially dangerous machinery.

“It is clear the burden of keeping farms safe is a heavy, but necessary one, with no room for error.

“There have been great strides with regards to health and safety over the past decades, with the number of fatal injuries to workers in agriculture falling by around half since 1981 – but we still have a huge way to go.”

Of the 33 deaths in the agricultural sector this year, the HSE says four were members of the public, two of which were children.

The most common cause of a farm fatality was being injured by an animal, accounting for 24pc of deaths, followed by being struck by moving vehicle (18pc) and becoming trapped by somethiung collapsing (15pc).

In the case of the East of England death, the HSE said a 57-year-old worker slipped and fell in the farmyard when returning to his vehicle. He fractured his ankle but later died from medical complications related to the injury.

Nearly half (48pc) of all agricultural workers killed were aged over 65. Richard Wade, of Lycetts Risk Management Services, said it proved the continual need to implement health and safety policies, carry out robust risk assessments and undertake health and safety training.

“Unwise risk-taking is an underlying problem in the agricultural industry, and the most vulnerable are hit the hardest,” he said. “Many farmers are working well past their retirement age, with little to no help, so physically, and cognitively, they are put under a lot of strain.

“These factors mean they may not appropriately assess or mitigate risks.”

For information and advice on farm safety, visit the HSE website.

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