Farm safety warning issued following 32 fatal injuries in a year

The NFU is urging all farmers to prioritise safety on farms this spring after figures showed the fatal injury rate in British agriculture has hardly changed in 40 years.

Provisional figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for April 2023 to March 2024 show 32 people lost their lives following accidents on farms in Great Britain, including the deaths of three children aged under two.

See also: Top farming safety tips from Farmers Weekly readers

Last May, 11 people died on farms in England and Scotland – the deadliest single month for 15 years. The NFU is desperate to avoid a repeat this year.

Following eight months of unprecedented wet weather, farmers are behind schedule with their field work.

The NFU fears many will be rushing to catch up and be tempted to take unnecessary risks, which could threaten their safety.  

NFU deputy president David Exwood stressed the need for a collaborative approach on farm safety, having recently taken over as chairman of the Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) for England.  

Speaking to the Farmers Weekly Podcast, Mr Exwood urged all farmers to take a five-minute pause and think about the task in front of them this spring, as part of the union’s Take 5 to Stay Alive campaign.

During the quarterly NFU council meeting in Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, on Tuesday (23 April), he revealed shocking official figures on farm deaths from the HSE.

The average rate of fatal injuries in agriculture stands at 8.6 worker deaths per 100,000, which is 21 times higher than the all-industry average. In 1980, the equivalent rate per 100,000 workers was 8.4.

“We have made no progress in a very, very long time,” Mr Exwood told delegates. “We cannot carry on like this. It is time to make a difference on farm safety.”

Most dangerous industry

Despite numerous safety campaigns over many years, farming statistically remains the nation’s most dangerous industrial occupation.

Mr Exwood said farms are “unique places” where families live and work. But he urged farmers who are active on social media to think carefully about the messaging behind sharing photos of children “being about the yard and on tractors”.

Derbyshire farmer Andrew Wood said wearing helmets on quad bikes should be made compulsory as an “easy win” to prevent deaths.

Hertfordshire arable farmer Andrew Watts said farming TV programmes, such as Clarkson’s Farm and Channel 5’s Our Yorkshire Farm, have a responsibility to portray safe farming practices.

NFU Cymru deputy president Abi Reader said farmers are under a lot of pressure. While great progress had been made to highlight awareness of mental health issues within farming, she said some of that energy should be transferred to farm safety more generally.

“We want to make an industry for everyone to be proud of, and I think putting some focus on the Farm Safety Foundation/Yellow Wellies campaign is a massive opportunity,” she said.

“Farmers can be very stubborn people – I include myself as well – and we can all be stuck in our ways. But I think there is a massive opportunity to change it.”

A new Farm Safety Partnership report is due to be published next week. The NFU has asked every farmer to read it carefully and learn the lessons on how to work safely on farms.

Yellow Wellies is hosting a conference in Warwickshire on 21 May to explore the challenges around improving farming’s poor safety record and supporting farmers’ mental wellbeing.

Learning resources

The NFU has highlighted ways farmers can improve their understanding of farm safety.

The union is hosting pre-harvest safety events across the country from 7 May to 12 July. For more details, visit

The HSE has uploaded five new videos about working safely with livestock to its YouTube channel this week.  

Lantra also offers free online training courses on farm health and safety, including child safety on farms.