Farming’s death toll climbs ahead of farm safety week 2021

Farming’s death toll climbs ahead of farm safety week 2021

More than 50 people have died in farm related accidents during the past 12 months - equivalent to almost one person a week killed while working in UK agriculture.

The death toll – which has nearly doubled in a single year – means the fatal accident rate in UK farming is now at its highest level for some 25 years.

These figures are a stark reminder of farming’s poor safety record as we approach the ninth year of Farm Safety Week. Running from 19-23 July, the event will focus on serious accidents and fatal injuries across agriculture and highlight what can be done to address the problem.

The Farm Safety Foundation manages the annual campaign and works with partners in the UK and Republic of Ireland over five days to encourage the farming community to recognise the real dangers of working in the industry. The initiative also underlines the importance of farmers looking after their physical and mental wellbeing each and every day, not just in Farm Safety Week.

Figures relating to farming’s escalating death toll are based on official notifications and accident reports for the year to date. It includes farmers, farmworkers and contractors, some well over retirement age, as well as children. These figures will be confirmed in July when the Health and Safety Executive in Great Britain and Northern Ireland publish their official annual accident reports.

The type of accidents seen on farm are depressingly familiar; often involving unsafe working practices. They include falls from height, being struck by a moving object or vehicle, being trapped or crushed and being killed by or fatally injured by livestock. The latest figures include five members of the public who were killed in separate incidents after being trampled by cattle while out walking during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Agriculture already has the worst rate of worker fatal injuries of all the UK’s main industrial sectors. It means farmers and farmworkers are 18 times more likely to be killed while at work than the average rate across all industries.

Whilst it is positive farmers and others within the industry are talking more about health and safety, so many of the accidents that occur on farm are preventable.

How do you shape up when it comes to farm safety? How would you answer these four questions?

1. Do you always take the keys out when leaving a farm vehicle?

The most common cause of serious and fatal injuries in agriculture involves moving and overturning vehicles. Many accidents happen when people leave a vehicle without making sure it cannot move. Even when the vehicle is stationary, you should make sure it is properly secured and made safe by following the Safe Stop procedure.

2. Do you ever allow children to travel in your tractor cab?

It is illegal to allow a child under 13 to ride on or drive agricultural self-propelled machines (such as tractors) and other specified farm machinery. Children are not safe simply because they are in a cab - they can and do fall out of doors and rear windows. They may distract the operator and, if left alone in the cab, can interfere with the tractor controls, putting other people as well as themselves at risk.

3. Do you have high visibility vests available for use in your farmyard?

A key aspect to your own safety is being visible on farm. Part of that is wearing high visibility clothing such as hats, shirts or Hi Vis vests, or anything that can alert a busy farmyard to your presence. In some cases, this vest could save your life.

4. Do you routinely wear a crash helmet when riding an ATV on your farm?

Quad bike accidents and overturned vehicles accounted for more than 14 fatalities in the past year. Yet only one in three farmers say they frequently or always wear a helmet when riding a quad bike.

If everyone makes it their mission to Take A Moment to do one thing that makes every farm safer, the industry can make further steps to become safer.