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Farming has the highest rate of deaths in industry, new figures reveal

New figures which show farming to have the highest death rates out of all industry sectors in Britain have been branded as “horrifying”.

A total of 39 people, including two children, died on farms across England, Scotland and Wales between April 2018 and March 2019.

The figures, released on Monday by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in its report called ‘Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing for Great Britain’, showed that 32 of those killed were agricultural, along with seven members of the public.

Health and Safety Executive (11872680)
Health and Safety Executive (11872680)

Moving vehicles was the leading cause of deaths (36 per cent), followed by animals (23 per cent) and falls (18 per cent), with eight of those who died having been aged 65 or over.

Responding to the report, Holbeach Hurn farmer and chairman of the Lincolnshire Forum for Agriculture and Horticulture, Mark Tinsley said: “Every death and serious injury has devastating consequences for the families and businesses involved.

“However, these HSE statistics are horrifying and I suspect that a significant proportion of deaths and serious injuries in 2018-19 have arisen from handling livestock.

“But that does not alter the fact that Lincolnshire has seen a number of deaths and injuries which have resulted from machinery where, for example, people have fallen through roofs or from heights.

Mark Tinsley is Chairman of the Lincolnshire Forum for Agriculture and Horticulture and director of PC Tinsley (13957563)
Mark Tinsley is Chairman of the Lincolnshire Forum for Agriculture and Horticulture and director of PC Tinsley (13957563)

“Agricultural machinery is much safer now than it used to be but there have still been a few incidents where people have become trapped in moving machinery parts.”

The HSE figures were released in partnership with the Farm Safety Foundation to mark Farm Safety Week which runs until Friday.

NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “The conversation around health and safety is changing, but as these HSE figures show, conversation alone is not enough.

“Farmers need to put their words into action and commit to making real changes on their farms, such as wearing a helmet when driving all-terrain vehicles or having a secure escape route when handling cattle.

“Effective safety measures are a fundamental part of any successful business and they should not be treated as an add-on or something we do only because we have to.

“They are a core part of how we look after ourselves and our businesses, so farmers should make sure they work safely all the year round.

“In addition, every single person who lives on, works on or visits a farm should speak up if they see any unsafe practices.

“We all have a responsibility to look for risks, rather than leaving it up to someone else.”

As part of its work to improve safety across the industry, the NFU hosted a series of workshops around the country to advise farmers on how to make simple changes within their businesses.

Andrew Turner, the HSE’s head of agriculture, said: “Farming is a critical part of our economy.

“But every year we have to report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.

“This is made even more tragic by the fact that the deaths and injuries are avoidable.

“The precautions to prevent people being killed and maimed on farms are well-known and can be easily applied across the sector in Great Britain.”

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