Farming fatalities double in one year

Farming fatalities double in one year

The safety record of the agricultural industry in England, Scotland and Wales has been dealt a devastating blow with the grim news that 41 deaths were recorded on farms in 2020/21, double the figure for 2019/20 and the highest number of fatalities in the last five years.

This latest data, from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), represents a new low for the industry and further reinforces farming’s unwanted reputation as Britain’s most dangerous occupation.

The 41 fatalities comprised thirty-four farm workers and seven members of the public, including two children. This compares with 20 farm workers and one child in 2019/2020. Sadly, the depressing statistics don’t stop there. Farming still has a fatality rate almost 20 times the GB industry average. Whilst in Northern Ireland, farming accounted for 38% of all workplace deaths and, even more shockingly, in the Republic of Ireland, 40% of all fatal incidents in the workplace were recorded in the farming sector.

Every single death is a tragedy for the victims’ families, friends and communities, and yet many could probably have been prevented if proper risk management and accident prevention measures had been in place and adhered to.

Safety in the spotlight

Currently, the spotlight on health and safety on our farms is intense. These new, depressing numbers have come to light at the start of the Farm Safety Foundation’s ninth annual Farm Safety Week which commenced on 19th July. The FSF will be focused on hammering home the message, not just this week, but for the weeks and months ahead, that the need  for action and for a change in mindset has never been more urgent.

Fatigue kills

According to an NFU Mutual survey, risk-taking and cost-cutting were identified as major risk factors, but by far the greatest risk identified by almost 70% of UK and Irish farmers participating in the survey, was tiredness. Fatigue breeds complacency and, with so many potential dangers around the typical farm including those related to machinery, livestock, falls and other hazards– complacency can kill. With harvest just around the corner, longer working hours, increased use of machinery, trailers and casual labour along with greater exposure to noise, vibration and dust make for a potentially lethal combination. We all know it’s an incredibly busy time – which makes it all the more important that farmers prioritise safety and do everything possible to keep fatigue at bay.

Machinery do’s and don’ts

Farm machinery remains one of the greatest areas of concern all year round in terms of risk. And yet it also offers the greatest potential for improvement if people take more time and care to establish ‘good practice’ around machinery to the point where it becomes routine. We covered a number of important safety tips, checks and precautions every farmer should take around machinery in an earlier blog, which also provided links to useful HSE and FSF resources. You can check out the article again right here.

We’ve seen tougher legislation and an increased awareness of the importance of working safely in recent years, but that can only do so much. What’s needed is a more rigorous approach to risk assessments and the introduction of controls that either eliminate or mitigate risk on any job carried out around the farm that has the potential for injury.

The industry needs everyone to think safety first, modify their own behaviours and ensure things are done the right way while calling out unsafe and unacceptable practices when and wherever they are encountered.

Lynx engineering -

All Loaded up and on her way home. We had a great time at the Ripon Farm Services Show with many reminiscing stories and plenty of compliments about our 6800 and attachments. It makes all of those long hours from the team restoring her worthwhile.  

Lynx engineering - @Lynxengineering

We had a great time at the Ripon Farm Services Show, with many reminiscing stories and plenty of compliments about our 6800 and attachments. The main question is, where to go next for the 6800?