Four farm deaths in a fortnight prompt stark safety warning

Four farm fatalities in just over a fortnight have rocked the industry and prompted a stark safety message to anyone in contact with machinery or livestock.

The incidents happened between 3-19 September; three involved tractors or trailers and one involved cattle, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed.

Two deaths were reported on 19 September. In Devon, a self-employed farmer was killed when his tractor overturned.

See also: Farm Safety Week: 8 farming lives lost in two months

In Staffordshire, a farmworker was killed when he became trapped by a closing powered tailgate of a grass trailer.

On 11 September, a member of the public walking on a footpath through a field in Cumbria was killed by cattle.

And on 3 September a self-employed farmer in North Yorkshire was killed when a telehandler overturned on a slope.

Reacting to the news, NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “Each one of these represents the loss of a friend, partner, colleague, mother, father, son or daughter.

“As an industry we need to double and double again our efforts to address the culture of health and safety and also not be afraid to highlight to each other improvements where we see they can be made.”

James Thompson, head of farming at Beeswax Dyson, said it was “nothing short of horrendous” for the families and businesses involved.

Mr Thompson urged people to share the message of safety in agriculture far and wide.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said tractor and machinery overturns as well as being struck by vehicles or moving parts, such as trailers, are significant causes of death and serious injury on farms.

It has issued the following guidance:

  • Farm machinery and equipment should only be driven by trained, competent and authorised people
  • Drivers must know safe driving techniques to avoid overturns
  • Work on sloping ground, and access routes to follow between work sites, must be planned, and altered if necessary when conditions change – for example in wet weather
  • The plan should consider the differences between vehicles and how attachments and loads can change the handling characteristics

To reduce the risk posed by moving vehicles or by moving parts of vehicles, always ensure:

  • Moving vehicles and pedestrians are kept apart
  • Drivers stop when anyone approaches
  • Drivers check for bystanders before starting tractors or operating machinery
  • People do not stand in any position where there is a risk of being crushed
  • Equipment is secured to keep it in place. Always prop cabs, tipping trailers and other parts that could drop under their own weight

For livestock farmers, the HSE issued advice on keeping cattle near footpaths:

  • Carefully consider the nature of the cattle in fields with public access. Take account of the age of the animals, the presence of calves and the influence of changing conditions, such as weather or increased footpath use at holiday times
  • Cows with young calves should not be kept in fields with public access
  • Consider temporary fencing to keep animals clear of a footpath through a field
  • Monitor animal behaviour and check paths are clearly marked and fences are secured and maintained

The Country Land and Business Association and the NFU have reminded people walking dogs near livestock to use a lead.