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How safe is work in agriculture?

The agricultural industry in Great Britain employs around 1% of the work force but has a poor safety record with disproportionate numbers of workplace injuries, both fatal and non-fatal, considering the numbers employed in the industry.

A guest article by Tom Price from the Farm Safety Partnership

Farm Safety Partnership

What do the HSE statistics say about farming?

The HSE recently published its annual report on safety statistics. The report shows that the number of fatal injuries in agriculture for 2019/20 stands at 20 deaths out of a total of 111. The numbers in agriculture are the second highest behind those recorded for the construction sector. Agriculture accounts for about 20% of all workplace deaths that occurred in Great Britain last year.

Agriculture employs about 1% of the UK workforce but many other industries employ more people. To get a meaningful comparison between industries employing varying numbers of people it is better to look at injury rates as a percentage of the total workforce. This is commonly expressed as a fatal injury rate per 100,000 employed.

Using this measure, agriculture has the poorest safety performance compared to any other industry in Great Britain. In respect of 2019/2020 the injury rate per 100,000 employed in agriculture is 5.96 per year but the all industry average was only 0.34.

Looking at injury rates over a 5-year period the figure for agriculture is 7.73 compared to an all industry average of just 0.42.

The rate for agriculture is significantly higher than the all industry rate. In fact, the rate of fatal injury in agriculture is 18 times higher than the all industry average and shows that whatever the reduction in fatal injuries last year over the figures in previous years  there is still a long way to go when compared to other industries.

What are the causes of fatal injury in agriculture?

The main causes of death and serious life changing injuries in agriculture have remained constant over the years. Workplace transport, contact with livestock, machinery and falls from height feature as the top causes every year.

What are the messages to farmers?

The NFU and other industry stakeholders are working to promote safety within agriculture, to change attitudes and behaviours and promote best practice. Messages that are being promoted to farmers to help reduce injuries suffered as a result falls from height are:

  • Avoid roof work or work at height maintaining buildings. Do as much as you can from the ground e.g. use extending equipment to clear gutters.
  • Avoid doing the work yourself. Use a professional contractor with the knowledge, skills equipment, and experience to safely work at height on buildings.
  • On very rare occasions where roof work or building maintenance at height cannot be avoided make sure the work is planned and carried out by people with the right training and equipment. For example, trained and experienced people using a mobile elevating work platform or scaffold.
  • Do not be tempted to use the wrong equipment. Being lifted on the forks or bucket of a telehandler is illegal.

Often injuries suffered in the workplace are described as accidents but a better word to describe them is ‘incidents’. The reason for this is because many of the workplace injuries could have been avoided if risks are identified and steps taken to remove them completely or mitigate when they cannot be removed altogether.

Tom Price

Tom Price

This article was kindly written for the No Falls Foundation by Tom Price from the Farm Safety Partnership.

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