The lastest report from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) show two children were among the 34 farm workers and seven members of the public across England, Scotland and Wales, who lost their lives.
Adrian Hodkinson, HSE Acting Head of Agriculture described agriculture as a “vital part of our economy” and everyone involved “rightly proud” of the quality and standard of food. But, he warned it appeard to come at a “significant cost” to many farmers and workers in terms of serious injury, lifelong ill health and in some cases death.
Mr Hodkinson added that the causes of accidents on farms are “well known” and measures to stop them are “usually straightforward” such as putting on handbrakes and fastening lap belts in cabs.
“When we investigate life-changing farm workplace incidents we find, time and time again, that risks are not being removed or managed. It is far too common for people to accept risk is an inevitable part of the job – this isn’t the case, the guidance is easily available to manage the risks and prevent injury.” However Mr Hodkinson said he was “really encouraged” that there are now some very high-profile advocates for improvement who see the real benefits for attracting and retaining people and reducing costs.
“It’s fantastic to see a real focus on maintenance of machinery and trailers, that many ATV users are getting trained and wearing helmets and cattle handling facilities are being improved.”
Throughout this year’s campaign, which has been running this past week, the Farm Safety Foundation, also known as Yellow Wellies, aims to highlight the issue of risk taking, cost cutting and tiredness on farms.
Stephanie Berkeley, manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, said the 2020/21 HSE report made “desperately disappointing” reading with some very sober statistics.
“The fact that farming has a fatality rate almost 20 times the GB industry average is shocking and shameful.
“Forty-one people lost their lives on our farms over the past year including two children – this is 18 more than the previous year and we can’t become immune to the impact that these deaths have on farming families and communities. We can’t just accept that farming is a dangerous occupation. We have to redouble our efforts to drive a change.”
Ms Berkeley said the main causes of fatal farm incidents had not changed over the past 60 years despite legislation and increased awareness of the importance of working safely. “We need to reassess the risk of everyday tasks and think about the long-term consequences of each and every risk we have taken and do something to either remove it or control it.
“Complacency kills – many farmers think they know their farm and the risks involved in going about their daily tasks. Those risks change day-to-day and next time things might not work out the same way.
“We want to encourage those living and working in the industry to rethink risk, to carry out risk assessments and most importantly put in controls that suit the circumstances of any busy farm.”
This is the ninth year the Foundation has run Farm Safety Week and it is supported by the Farm Safety Partnerships (FSP).
NFU Deputy President and FSP England Chairman Stuart Roberts said it was time to “turn the tide” on farming’s poor safety record.