A tractor / trailer road accident©Gary Naylor

Farmers who repeatedly flout workplace safety rules could see CAP support payments reduced under radical measures being considered by Brussels.

Despite various campaigns to improve occupational safety, agriculture continues to have one of the worst fatality rates of any industry.

Across Europe, some 500 people are killed in farming accidents every year, according to the EU statistics body Eurostat.

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The latest Eurostat figures show that 42 people were killed in the UK while working in agriculture, forestry and fishing during 2012.

During the same year, farm accidents killed 97 people in Italy, 95 people in Germany and 26 people in Ireland.

Describing the death toll as “unacceptable”, EU farm commissioner Phil Hogan said he was determined to make agriculture a safer occupation. He added: “Every action is on the table that would help ensure our farmers and their families are safe in the job they are doing.”

Agriculture was a risky job, acknowledged Mr Hogan. But measures could be taken to ensure it was less dangerous.

It was important, for example, that pto covers were properly in place on machinery and that other safety procedures were not neglected.

“It would be a last resort to actually penalise farmers for not protecting themselves and their families – [such as] if we had to deduct farm payment measures for non-compliance in the farm safety arena.

“But I am prepared to go as far as considering that, if I don’t see action taken by farmers to protect themselves and their families in the context of farm safety.”

Mr Hogan did not say when any such measure might be introduced.

But taking his own country as an example, he warned: “It is a very serious matter and one that is known to every community in Ireland.

“They have seen a lot of suffering, a lot of tragedy, because of inadequate attention to essential and basic safety measures, which is unacceptable.”