Reduce farming’s death toll, urge farmworkers

Farming must reduce the scourge of workplace deaths, said the country's largest union, Unite.

It urged delegates at the NFU conference to put safety top of the agenda by backing moves to introduce roving safety representatives to safeguard workers. Unite said that one in five workplace deaths happen on Britain's farms and with almost one death per week, agricultural workers are more likely to be killed at work than in any other industry.

The union, which represents large number of farmworkers, has criticised the government failure to do more to reduce the death and injury toll.

Cath Speight, national officer, said: 'Unite has repeatedly called for the introduction of roving safety reps to visit farms.

'These shocking statistics are the biggest argument for that issue to be raised again.

'Other high-risk industries, particularly construction, have seen death and accident rates fall over the years.

'But this has not happened in agriculture and for many years now Britain's farms have been the most dangerous workplaces in the land.

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'It is the responsibility of the employer, the farmer, to see that all safety procedures and legislation are followed and that all employees fully understand safety instructions, including casual and migrant workers whose first language may not be English and who may have difficulty understanding what they are being told.

'If roving reps could visit and see that farmers are complying with health and safety legislation, we believe this high level of accidents and deaths would be reduced. Unionised workplaces are the safest workplaces.'

Last year, the HSE reported 34 people deaths in workplace accidents on farms – a rate of eight fatalities per 100,000 workers. The risk of death is four times higher for a farm worker than someone working on a building site.

The true situation is believed to be even worse, as the HSE estimates that only 25pc of injuries to employees in the sector are actually reported.