The Health and Safety Executive has developed some new health and safety qualifications for farmers because it believes that 99% of farm deaths are preventable.

Roger Nourish, HSE head of farming and food, said just 1.7% of the working population is involved in agriculture, yet it is responsible for 19% of fatal accidents.

“We know you are risk takers. But we want you to be alive and well, as we don’t want to investigate your fatal accident.

That is an awful experience for an inspector and it kills family farm livelihoods,” he said.

It was far worse in agriculture than in the construction industry, he said.

The average annual incident rate in agriculture at 10.5/100,000 people in the industry was almost three times the rate of 3.5/100,000 people in construction.

HSE was keen to help prevent these accidents, which took the lives of 47 people last year and saw many more injured, said Mr Nourish. “They are not just numbers, they grieve me personally.”

HSE has developed the new vocational qualifications with the aim of tackling the industry’s poor health and safety record. “They are aimed at everyone from farm workers to supervisors and managers,” said HSE inspector Alastair Mitchell.

“They should help make farms safer places.”

Produced with the help of organisations, which include NFU, LANTRA and the National Proficiency Tests Council, there are three levels for which training packages are being finalised.

They will have a strong practical bias and lower levels should be available from spring 2006, with an advanced qualification coming later in the year.

The short courses will involve 20 to 30 hours of training followed by an assessment.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk