In March 2019, 57-year-old farmer John Hamilton was killed in a machinery accident at his farm. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident. With 7.73 deaths per 100,000 workers in agriculture (as compared to 1.94 per 100,000 for the construction industry), farming remains one of the most high-risk industries for deaths and injuries at work. It accounts for 15-20% of all worker fatalities, despite only employing 1.5% of the UK workforce.
Different Risk Factors
The number of potential hazards in a farming environment is huge – for people living on the farm (especially children) as well as agriculture workers themselves. According to the HSE, roughly one person a week has been killed as a result of agricultural work over the last decade.
The average year on a farm might involve working at height, working with livestock, operating dangerous machinery, long hours, extended periods of lone working, high stress levels, exposure to extreme weather and respiratory hazards (e.g. poultry dust). Working with the same machinery repeatedly – for example, using a tractor every day for months – can sometimes breed familiarity and therefore complacency, leaving people open to unexpected accidents. With such a mixture of hazards, it’s hardly surprising that farming has traditionally been an industry with high accident rates.
In response to the high death and accident rate in farming, there have been many initiatives aimed at improving safety in recent years.
The Tilly Pass was set up to provide a standard for farms maintaining their trailers safely. It was founded following the death of a 19-year-old agriculture worker. This is an example of a direct response to a tragedy, specifically targeted at equipment safety.
More broadly, in 2014 NFU Mutual established the Farm Safety Foundation. It aims to raise awareness of safety issues among farm workers and to reduce the accident and injury rates associated with the industry.
For farmers and all of those who live or work on farms, it’s important to keep health and safety at the forefront of their minds at all times. This is especially important when working at height, working with machinery, working with animals or working in challenging conditions, such as difficult weather or at night. Farms need to ensure they’re maintaining the highest standards of safety possible for all of their workers.
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