Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Farm fatalities fall as safety record starts to show sign of improvement

August 18, 2020 by  
Filed under News & Business

Fewer fatal accidents are happening on farms – but agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland.

Some 20 agricultural workers lost their lives on farms during the past year, according to Health and Safety Executive statistics published to coincide with last month’s Farm Safety Week (20-24 July). One member of the public – a four-year-old child – was also killed.

The figure represents a 37.5% fall in the number of fatal injuries in agriculture from the previous year’s figure of 32. But the Farm Safety Foundation said poor attitudes among farmers to safety and risk-taking?remained a challenge.

The biggest cause of these fatalities was farm transport. Seven people were killed after being struck by a moving vehicle. Incidents involved tractors, a combine harvester, telescopic handlers and an all-terrain utility vehicle.

Older workers at risk

Workers over the age of 55 are disproportionately at risk of death following an incident.?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.

Even with the encouraging news that numbers have dropped, 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 20% of worker fatalities.

Now in its eighth year, Farm Safety Week brings together five countries 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.

Farm Safety Foundation manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “This has been a particularly challenging 2020 for all of us but over the past few months, farmers have been recognised as key workers, playing an essential role in producing food for the country.

Room for improvement

The fall in fatalities was welcome – although there remained room for improvement. Young farmers were coming into the industry with improved attitudes to working safely. But people were still taking risks and – in some cases – acting irresponsibly.

This included texting and using mobile phones while driving tractors. People were filming dangerous stunts using farm machinery – including diggers, quadbikes and bale wrappers – and posting the footage on social media.

“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. Farmers are starting to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest and in the interest of staying safe and staying alive.”