Farm sector records highest workplace injury rate

Farming has the worst workplace injury rate, at almost four times higher than the all-industry average, according to new Health and Safety Executive data.

The figures contained in the annual Health and Safety at Work report reveal that 4,100 of 100,000 farm staff reported an injury in the 12 months to March 22, compared with an all-industry average of just 1,110 injuries in 100,000.

The total cost of injuries to the farming sector is as high as £279m, the HSE report estimates.

See also: Farm deaths almost halve in 12 months, new HSE figures show

Drilling down into the data more closely for agriculture, a second study reveals that more than 11,000 farmworkers sustained non-fatal injuries in the 12 months to March. These were caused by:

  • Slips, trips and falls: 23%
  • Falls from height: 13%
  • Injured by an animal: 13%
  • Contact with moving machinery: 11%
  • Injured while lifting or carrying: 11%
  • Struck by moving object: 10% 

More than half of these injuries (57%) lasted for seven days or more.

Ill health

Over the 12-month period, 12,000 workers also suffered from new or long-standing ill health, with almost half (49%) reporting musculoskeletal disorders.

The other illnesses linked to work activities were skin disorders such as dermatitis and skin cancer, with 100 cases registered.

Lung disorders such as asthma and allergic alveolitis or farmer’s lung were also prevalent.

Farmer’s lung is caused by the inhalation of dust or spores arising from mouldy hay, grain and straw.

Sombre reading

NFU vice-president David Exwood said the statistics made sombre reading.

“The statistics remain stubbornly high. Agriculture has significantly higher injury rates than other industries, and this is something the industry is working to change.

“The HSE figures show that, as an industry, we should be more mindful of taking care of ill health at all ages. Farming is a physical job, and to ensure we are working pain-free, we need to look after both our mental and physical health,” Mr Exwood said.

He called for a cultural change in farming, with everyone encouraged to share with friends, family, and neighbours the simple actions that could help prevent devastating accidents. 

These changes included:

  • Applying the safe-stop procedure on vehicles (apply the handbrake, engage neutral, switch off the engine, remove the key)
  • Wearing a helmet when operating ATVs
  • Using seatbelts
  • Wearing high-visibility clothing

He also urged farmers to use staff training packages available through the NFU or Lantra.

Training options

NFU training scheme

Lantra training: Agriculture health and safety and legal responsibilities

Further information

HSE agriculture report (pdf format)

HSE all-industry summary (pdf format)