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Written on 1st August 2022 by Kim Milan

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the national workplace health and safety watchdog, has published its latest report into the number of fatal injuries (deaths) which were caused by accidents on farms from April 2021 to March 2022.

HSE’s report, Fatal injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in Great Britain, provides insight into the very real, ongoing  risk of death and serious injury on farms and other agricultural workplaces. It highlights the most common causes of fatal accidents, and the most vulnerable workers. Whilst last year’s statistics show a slight drop in the overall number of these avoidable accidents, HSE believes that standards of farming safety remain a cause for concern.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry’s worker death rate is 21 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries. The HSE, Farm Safety Partnerships (FSP) in England, Scotland and Wales, the Agriculture Industry Advisory Committee (AIAC) and farming industry leaders all agree that improvements in farming safety must be prioritised if further serious injury and loss of life is to be avoided.

What does the HSE’s report say about fatal accidents on farms?

HSE’s annual round up of farming sector fatalities is based on accidental deaths in agricultural environments that were reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). HSE collects  and analyses this information for specific industries to identify common causes of accidents, trends and incidence rates, so that it can work out and prioritise where to focus its efforts to help industries, businesses and employers improve workplace safety

Fatal injuries to agricultural workers from road traffic accidents on public highways or fatal diseases are not included in these statistics.

HSE’s provisional statistics for farming industry workplace deaths in 2021 to 2022 conclude that:

  • 25 people were killed in agriculture-related activities;
  • 22 of those who died were workers;
  • 13 were self-employed;
  • 9 were employees;
  • 3 of the people who died were members of the public (2 adults, 1 child);
  • the oldest farmer who died was 85 years old;
  • workers aged 65 and older accounted for more than a third (36% or 8 out of 22) of all worker fatalities;
  • five-year average figures for 2017/18 to 2021/22 show that the number of farming industry fatalities in workers aged 65+ was almost double the number in the next highest group;
  • the youngest person killed was a nine-year-old child;
  • during the five years from 2017/18 to 2021/22, 23 members of the public were killed in farming accidents, of which  a third were children
  • 8 children died in accidents on farms in the last five years.

HSE’s report comments that although the number of fatal injuries to workers in the agricultural sector has fallen by around half since the early 1980s, and fell in 2021/22 from the previous year, the rate of fatal injuries (per 100,000 workers) in the agricultural sector remains the highest of all major industries. The agricultural worker fatal injury rate is 21 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries.

In addition to alarmingly high rates of fatal injury, it is also disappointing to see that the most common causes of death in farming and agriculture have not changed for many years.

In 2021/2022, HSE found that the five most common causes of work-related death in agriculture were:

  • Accidents involving transport, with incidents such as being crushed by overturning vehicles, run over or being struck by moving vehicles causing most deaths.
  • Being struck by a moving vehicle:
    • 8 (32%) were killed by being struck by a moving vehicle;
    • Accidents involved tractors (3), all-terrain vehicles (ATVs)(2), a 4x4 vehicle, an HGV, and a telescopic handler.
  • Being struck by an object:
    • 5 (20%) were killed by being struck by an object;
    • Accidents included falling trees (2), an exploding tyre and falling bales(2).
  • Contact with machinery, during operation or maintenance:
    • 4 (16%) were killed by contact with machinery;
    • Accidents involved a horse walker, a log splitting machine, a trailer tailgate, and a tractor/topper.
  • Falling from height:
    • 2 (8%) were killed by falling from heights;
    • Accidents included falling through fragile roofs.
  • Being crushed or trampled by animals:
    • 2 (including a member of the public) were killed by cattle.
  • Being trapped by something collapsing:
    • 2 were killed by being something collapsing;
    • Accidents involved a vehicle and a seed drill.
  • Asphyxiation/drowning:
    • 2 were killed by asphyxiation or drowning;
    • Accidents included being overcome by slurry fumes and falling into a water drainage barrel.

HSE has indicated that it regards these accidents as a cause for concern, and that improving safety on farms is one of its key ongoing priorities.  The safety watchdog says that it will continue to work with farming and forestry industry stakeholders to keep up the pressure to manage risk in the workplace and reduce the likelihood of serious injury and death.

Compensation after workplace accidents lead to serious injury or death

HSE’s annual workplace injury statistics are a valuable reminder that lapses in workplace safety can cause devastating injury and loss of life. Accidents caused by moving machinery parts or vehicles, falling through roofs or working at heights, are all too common and often the result of preventable mistakes.  Farm owners and agricultural employers are required by law to recognise that farms can be dangerous places and to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of injury to their workers and other visitors. Where someone dies or suffers serious or life-changing injury as a result of unsafe working conditions, systems, equipment or an unsafe environment, we can help the injured person or their bereaved family claim their entitlement to compensation.

If you or a member of your family have been severely injured as a result of an accident which was caused by someone else’s negligence, you can talk to one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, to find out more about making a claim by contacting us here.