Farm leaders have launched a campaign to tackle macho attitudes in agriculture and improve the health and safety record of the industry.

Organisations including the NFU, the Tenant Farmers Association and the Country Land and Business Association have joined forces to urge farmers to take less risks while at work.

According to figures from the Health and Safety Executive, agriculture is the worst-performing sector in terms of fatalities.

Of the 150 deaths across industry last year, farming accounted for 45, with a catalogue of accidents involving machinery, power lines and cattle.

In the past 10 years, 455 people have died on British farms – almost one person every week. In the first five months of this year, 21 deaths were recorded.

NFU president Peter Kendall said he wanted to build a coalition of industry parties to take steps to make a real difference on farm safety.

“As an industry based on strong family ties we cannot ignore or accept this level of accidents,” he told a farm safety summit in London on Thursday (30 September).

“We must act now to reduce on-farm fatalities, change traditional attitudes, dispel myths, support members and demonstrate the NFU takes our responsibilities seriously as the industry leader,” he said.

The HSE has been piling pressure on the industry to take action as fatality and accident figures fail to improve year-on-year.

“Deaths are the tip of the iceberg because below that you have so many accidents and horrendous injuries that are unreported,” said Judith Hackett, chairman of the HSE.

“You need 60,000 new entrants in this industry in the next 10 years but anyone coming in is two-and-a-half times more likely to die in agriculture than in any other industry.

“If you want this industry to survive and thrive, you will have to start tackling this problem. It just doesn’t look good.”