The UK and Ireland’s Farm Safety Week launches today and the charity behind it is challenging those living and working in the industry to take personal responsibility for farm safety.
With the worst safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland, records show that 42 people lost their lives on farms across the country over the last year. The Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies) believes that these deaths could be prevented and say that something needs to change.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in GB Report 2022/23 shows that of the 27 deaths in England, Scotland and Wales, 21 were farm workers and six were members of the public, including one child. 33% of those killed were aged 65 and over.
Farm Safety Foundation manager, Stephanie Berkeley, said: “The release of this year’s HSE figures serves as a sombre reminder of why Farm Safety Week matters and why we must all do more to address the poor safety record in the industry and make our farms safer places to work and to live.
“This is not just our problem – it is a worldwide problem. According to the International Labour Office (ILO) agriculture employs half of the world’s labour force but remains one of the three most hazardous sectors of activity (along with construction and mining).
“However, in Great Britain, for a sector that employs 472,000 people which is only 1% of the working population, the fatality rate in agriculture accounts for a shocking 18% of all deaths in the workplace and an additional 23,000 farm workers suffer long term ill-health or serious injury in the industry every year.”
Ms Berkeley said: “This is why, Farm Safety Week matters. It is personal. Every year, hundreds of people, organisations and communities support the campaign. Farming unions, Young Farmers Clubs, and many key agricultural businesses work with us throughout the week to share important safety reminders, remember those people who have been affected by death and injuries, and ultimately campaign for safer farms for everyone.”
The picture is similar in Northern Ireland where farming accounted for 3 of the 8 (38%) reported workplace fatalities in 2022/2023 (HSENI). In the Republic of Ireland, farming – which accounts for 8% of the workforce (according to CSO’s Labour Force Survey) has 40% of all workplace fatal incidents – 12 of the 20 reported in 2022/2023.
Sue Thompson, head of agriculture, HSE, said: “Agriculture is a vital part of the UK economy and it is not acceptable that it continues to fall short when it comes to managing risk in the workplace. It is all the more tragic that we still see children killed by farming activities. As an industry we must not tolerate this any longer. We need everyone to play their part to improve the culture and change the poor behaviours we see far too frequently.
“Agriculture will continue to be a priority sector for HSE. We are committed to making workplaces safer and healthier and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.
“Awareness of the hazards and health risks and legal requirements has never been higher. It’s great that Farm Safety Week brings the issue into focus. But it’s regrettable that we’re not yet seeing the widespread changes in attitude towards safety, and the improvements in behaviour that will reduce the numbers of people injured or killed.
Ms Berkeley added: “Farming is one of the few industries in which members of the public and family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and non-fatal injuries. In fact, over the past 5 years 25 members of the public have lost their lives of GB farms.
“Farming is also an industry where people do not retire at 65 so, while we are seeing an encouraging improvement in the attitudes and behaviours in the next generation of farmers, we are also seeing a disproportionately higher number of older farmers losing their lives in farm incidents 33% of fatal injuries were in people over the age of 65.
“The fact is, every single one of us living and working in the industry needs to step up and take responsibility and challenge and change their attitudes so we can make our farms safer places to work and to live.”
For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek