Fatal accident figures are falling – but farming is still a dangerous job
PUBLISHED: 13:26 20 July 2020 | UPDATED: 13:26 20 July 2020
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Deaths from farming accidents have fallen to a five-year low, according to new figures – but safety campaigners warned there is still a long way to go to improve the industry’s woeful record.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) released its detailed annual statistics on fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing to coincide with the start of Farm Safety Week, which aims to reduce the number of accidents which continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.
The figures show 21 people were killed in agriculture in the 12 months from April 1 2019 to March 31 2020, including 20 farm workers and a four-year-old child. The total was 18 fewer than the previous year and nine fewer than the five-year average of 30.
Only one death was recorded in the East of England, a 37-year-old self-employed farmer in Hertfordshire who was trampled to death by his bull while attempting to direct the animal into a pen.
The HSE report highlights the wide range of potentially-fatal dangers on farms:
• Seven people were killed when struck by moving vehicles including tractors, a combine harvester, telescopic handlers and an all-terrain utility vehicle.
• Four were killed by a fall from height, including from a fragile roof and a fork-lift truck.
• Four were struck by falling objects including a straw bale, trees and a tree branch.
• Two were fatally injured by cattle.
• Two were killed by coming into contact with machinery including a rotavator and a seed drill.
• Two were killed when trapped by a collapsing mower unit and a steel structure.
The report says workers over the age of 55 were disproportionately at risk, accounting for half of all fatal injuries, while the five-year fatal injury rate is nearly six times higher for the over-65s compared to the 16-24 age group.
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A spokesman for the Farm Safety Foundation, which organises Farm Safety Week from July 20-24, said: “Even with the encouraging news that numbers are dropping this year, agriculture still has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, a shocking 18 times higher than the all-industry rate, accounting for around 20pc of worker fatalities.
“Now in its eighth year, Farm Safety Week brings together five countries [the UK and Ireland] over five days 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.”
Throughout this year’s campaign, the Farm Safety Foundation, supported by the Farm Safety Partnerships and the HSE, aims to demonstrate how the global coronavius pandemic has impacted the industry, with particular focus on keeping children safe on farms and issues surrounding distracted driving and rural road safety. Following the encouraging figures in this year’s HSE annual report, it will also technological innovations helping to make farms safer.
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