10 July 1998

Death toll is down but still not enough

By John Burns

ACCIDENTS in farming and related industries claimed 54 lives over the past year. The total was lower than the previous years total of 64 deaths, but greater effort should be made to reduce the death toll, said David Mattey, the Health and Safety Executives chief agricultural inspector.

Presenting the HSEs annual report at the show, Mr Mattey said: "The report relates to 54 people who suffered a violent death. They did not simply die, they were killed in terrible circumstances". But nearly all the accidents could have been avoided, he added.

Show president, land owner and farmer, the Duke of Westminster, added his own plea to the industry to do more to prevent injuries.

Unusually, the statistics included seven people killed by cattle; one a vet and another a member of the public walking a dog on a lead on a public footpath. Two others involved bulls. HSE will publish new guidelines to help people avoid injury when working with cattle, said Mr Mattey.

The way to avoid accidents and deaths was to plan ahead, anticipate what might go wrong and take precautions. Much could be learnt from the HSEs records of fatal injuries and what caused them. Lapse of concentration was a major contributory factor. "Stop and think" must be the watchword," he said.

Workers representatives criticised the resources available for safety education and law enforcement on safety matters. The HSE said the allocation process was being reviewed this year.