Farming is UK’s most deadly industry, figures confirm

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The number of people killed on farms last year has nearly doubled, according to the latest fatal injuries report by the HSE.

On 3 August, a three-year-old child was killed in an incident involving a tractor. The following week, on 10 August, a man was found dead in a field in Marshfield, near to Chippenham. It is suspected he was tramped to death by the cattle.

HSE is investigating both cases, but warned both the public and farmers to be safe.

HSE’s acting head of agriculture Adrian Hodkinson said: “While we must respect the ongoing investigations following these tragic incidents, most injuries or deaths that we’ve historically seen on farms have been both predictable and preventable.

“An industry-wide change in attitude is needed for farmers to take action to protect themselves and others to the well-known risks they face.”

In 2020/21 eleven farmers were killed by animals, one of the five main causes of deaths in the industry. Photograph: iStock

HSE’s Fatal Injuries in Agriculture report, issued ahead of farm safety week in July, revealed that forty-one people were killed in agriculture last year, up from 21 in the previous 12-month period.

It is eight deaths more than the five-year average (33) and represents the highest number of deaths recorded in last five years. 

In addition, seven members of the public were killed in 2020/21 of which two were children.

Speaking to Farmers Weekly, NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said this year has highlighted the “dreadful safety performance” of UK agriculture. “We all need to vastly improve our efforts to deliver a demonstrable cultural change in the way we think about farm safety,” he said.

The report says agriculture has the worst rate of fatal injury of all the industrial sectors and is 20 times higher than the all industry rate. 

“Yet again, agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record of any industry in the UK and it’s just not good enough," continued Roberts.

The five most common causes of deaths have remained broadly the same each year in farming. They are also the main causes of deaths in the most recent year. In 2020/21, 13 farmers died after being struck by moving vehicles, eleven were killed by animals, six died after contact with machinery, four were struck by an object and three died after a fall from height.

The figures for 2020/21 are provisional, covering the 12 months from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, and will be finalised in July 2022.

James Chapman, who lost his arm in an incident with an unguarded Power Take Off (PTO) shaft, posted on Twitter for Farm Safety Week (19-23 July). The tweet said: “My prosthetic arm costs £21,000. The piece of plastic that could have saved it costs £100, the effect on my mental health couldn’t be put right with money.”

Fatal injuries in agriculture report in Great Britain 2020/21 report is here

Watch a video made by HSE featuring injured farmer James Chapman here 


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