Agriculture is Britain’s deadliest industry – with one in five workplace fatalities occurring on farms, according to the latest figures.

Some 32 people were killed or fatally injured while working on British farms last year.

The fatality rate is 18 times higher than the all-industry average, according to provisional statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on Wednesday (3 July).

See also: Why farmers are backing campaign to cut farm accidents

Analysis shows that agriculture accounted for one-fifth of all 147 workplace fatalities between April 2018 and March 2019.

It makes farming the worst sector for work-related deaths despite employing far fewer people than other industries.

HSE chairman Martin Temple said: “Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for a small fraction of the workforce of Great Britain, yet accounted for more than 20% of worker fatalities in the past year.

“This is unacceptable and more must be done to prevent such fatalities taking place.”

 

Fatal injuries

The three most common causes of fatal farm injuries continue to be: workers falling from height; being struck by a moving vehicle; and being struck by a moving object.

Taken together, these injuries accounted for nearly 60% of fatalities across all industries in 2018-19.

Publication of the figures came as industry leaders launched the latest instalment of a farm safety campaign.

Co-ordinated by the Farm Safety Partnership, which brings together more than 30 organisations, the initiative is running throughout 2019.

See also: Know How – Health and safety

The year-long campaign is focusing on four different aspects of farm safety – including machinery and transport, working with livestock and preventing falls from height.

This summer it is focusing on keeping children safe.

Older workers

The new figures continue to highlight the risks to older workers.

Some 25% of fatal injuries in 2018-19 were to workers aged 60 or over, even though such workers make up only about 10% of the workforce.

Fatalities involving children are not included in the statistics.

Farm Safety Partnership chairman and NFU vice-president Stuart Roberts said: “We must remember that farms are first and foremost a working environment and, like any job, we should try to separate our work from our home life. Farms are not playgrounds.

“All children need is somewhere secure to play that is away from the workplace, and if they do need to enter your place of work, adult supervision is essential.

“Such boundaries become even more important during the summer holidays, when children are at home.”

Little comfort

Although 2018-19 saw an increase of six workplace fatalities from 2017-18, the latest figures remain broadly in line with recent years.

Longer-term statistics suggest a long-term reduction in the total number of workplace fatalities since 1981.

But Mr Temple said: “Whatever the sector, we should remember that any change in numbers provides little comfort to the family, friends and colleagues of the 147 whose lives were cut short this year while doing their job.”

A fuller analysis of work-related fatalities in agriculture – and how to prevent them – is due to be published ahead of Farm Safety Week, which takes place from 15-19 July.