Farm safety call as fatalities increase

A rise in farm fatalities involving agricultural workers has prompted renewed calls for safer working practices.

Some 29 workers were killed on British farms during 2017-18 – up from 27 the year before, according to Health and Safety Executive statistics on Wednesday (4 July).

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It means agriculture has the highest fatal accident rate for all main UK industry sectors at 8.44 fatalities per 100,000 workers – about 18 times as high as the all-industry rate.

The NFU and other agricultural organisations said they were continuing to work with farmers to focus on improving workplace health and safety on farm and during agricultural work.

Change attitude

NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts, who is also chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP), said he believed the industry was starting to see a change in attitude.

“I really believe we are starting to see a shift in perspective among farmers towards health, safety and well-being, which is why it is disappointing to see farming hold the poorest safety record again.

“We are seeing the industry come together and shout about the importance of health and safety.”

Over the past two weeks, more than 200 farmers attended NFU and FSP health and safety events. Numerous county shows had also prioritised the issue.

Words into action

Mr Roberts said: “This is just another example of how farmers are sharing good practice and talking to each other about how to reduce risk on farm.”

“I am proud to see how the conversation has changed around this subject in recent months and years, but it is vital that words are put into action.

I am fully aware of how difficult it can be to change culture and habits that have lasted a lifetime on farm, but for our own well-being, this needs to change.

“The Farm Safety Partnership has set a target of halving farm deaths, from a base of 29, by 2023 and we are working hard to achieve this. Our ultimate goal is an industry with no fatalities.”

Farm Safety Week begins on 16 July and the NFU will again be working with other organisations to highlight best farm safety practice alongside its FSP partners.

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