Farm Safety Week: Machinery still biggest cause of farm deaths

Machinery and transport continue to be the main causes of life-changing and life-ending injuries on farm.

Four in 10 of all farmworkers who have lost their lives over the past decade were related to workplace machinery or transport, said NFU vice-president Guy Smith.

Mr Smith, who is also chair of England’s Farm Safety Partnership, said that while the most recent figures from the Health and Safety Executive showed a reduction in the number of deaths through machinery and transport, one death was one too many.

See also: Why tractor ‘kill switches’ could save lives

“Farm safety training is improving across the country and regional initiatives like Devon Young Farmers Club’s recent “Growing Safer Farmers” all demonstrate that agriculture is an industry who agree that enough is enough and we want to make a change,” he added.

Safety first

Helen Banham, a dairy farmer from Skegness, Lincolnshire, lost two fingers on her right hand in a life-changing accident with a bottling machine four years ago.

She was going about her daily routine when a bottle dropped through the machine. Instinctively, and without thinking of turning off the bottling line, she reached into the machine to grab it.

Her hand became trapped in the machine and her thumb was severed, while a spike penetrated the palm of her hand.

While pulling her hand free she ripped it open, severely and irrevocably damaging the tendons in her third finger.

Helen Banham

Helen Banham lost two fingers on her right hand in an accident with a bottling machine

Mrs Banham said: “It was our wake-up call. The milk business was taking so much of our time and we were really up against it. We couldn’t afford to take on any more staff, costs were rising and the prices we could charge just weren’t covering our costs.”

Her husband and business partner David added: “We did know that the machine needed to have some guards added: that was the stupid thing about it. We had employed a health and safety consultant who had said something about guards, but we hadn’t picked up on it specifically.

“The trouble with farming is that you’re always a “jack of all trades” and constantly juggling jobs and we wanted so much for the milk processing part of the business to work, so perhaps we didn’t have our eye on the safety side of things as we should have done.”


Peter Robertson and Dr Elaine Booth have put in place a hi-vis policy on their mixed farming enterprise at Ednie Farms, Peterhead.

Anyone who comes on to the farm must have a hi-vis jacket or boiler suit.

Mr Robertson made the decision after reading that a third of all accidents on Scottish farms are linked to vehicles and machinery: “We’ve invested in those for our employees and family, and when we have schoolchildren on the farm we ensure every single one of them wears one.

“This policy is widespread in nearly every other manual labour industry, such as the buildings and construction sector, so why should agriculture be any different.

“We often work in challenging conditions – late into the night, in dark sheds, or at a pace to try and get jobs finished, and any small measures our industry can take to make their farms and crofts safer, is a huge step on reducing the accident and death toll that our industry has such a bad record of,” he added.