FARMING MATTERS: Risks of working in agriculture

Johnny Denman from rural insurance specialist Lycett
Johnny Denman from rural insurance specialist Lycett

Thirty three people across the country were killed in agriculture in 2017/18, three more than the previous year, according to figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Johnny Denman, of rural insurance specialist Lycetts, said: “Agriculture’s high fatality rate significantly outstrips that of other industries. It is more than five times higher than the second most risky industry, construction, which really drives home how hazardous an industry it is.

“Farmers face potentially fatal risks on a daily basis, from working with unpredictable animals to potentially dangerous machinery, so protecting personal and employee health should be top priority. Sadly, members of the public, family members and children living on the farm also get caught up in incidents and account for some of the overall deaths. It is clear the burden of keeping farms safe is a heavy, but necessary one, with no room for error.

Deaths recorded in the south east included an 80-year-old farm partner, who was attacked by cattle as he walked his dog along a footpath; a 74-year-old farmer who fell backwards from a bale stack; a 68-year-old farm partner who was run over by a telehandler reversing in the farm yard; and a 67-year-old farm worker who was struck by a concrete beam when it fell from lifting chains on a telehandler.

Nearly half (48 per cent) of the agricultural workers killed in Britain were over 65.

Richard Wade, of Lycetts Risk Management Services, said: “Unwise risk-taking is an underlying problem in the agricultural industry, and the most vulnerable are hit the hardest. The fatal injury rate for over 65s was nearly five times that of younger workers.

“Many farmers are working well past their retirement age, with little to no help, so physically, and cognitively, they are put under a lot of strain. These factors mean they may not appropriately assess or mitigate risks. Sadly, some of these deaths are a result of freak accidents, but others are preventable. By implementing health and safety policies, carrying out robust risk assessments and undertaking health and safety training, farmers can ensure good practice is an integral part of their business, creating a safer environment for them, their workers, and the wider community.”