Farm Safety Week: Agriculture continues to have poorest safety record a decade on

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Figures released today from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in GB Report 2021/22, show that a decade after the first Farm Safety Week campaign, agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record in the UK and Ireland.

Over the last year, 25 people have lost their lives on farms in Great Britain– an encouraging improvement on last year’s total of 41, but one life lost is one too many according to UK-wide charity the Farm Safety Foundation (or Yellow Wellies as they are known).

In Northern Ireland, farming accounted for six of the 18 (33 per cent) reported workplace fatalities in 2021/2022 (HSENI).

In the Republic of Ireland farming, which accounts for four per cent of the workforce (according to CSO’s Labour Force Survey) has 26 per cent of all workplace fatal incidents.

Of the 25 people killed in England, Scotland and Wales in the past year, 22 were farm workers and three were members of the public, including a nine-year old child.

For an industry that still has between one and two children being killed through its activities each year, this simply MUST improve.

Farming has changed so much over the past decade, so why hasn’t its safety record?

From 18-22 July, the Farm Safety Foundation will hold their 10th annual Farm Safety Week, a campaign which brings together five countries over five days with one simple goal – to encourage farmers to make our farms safer places to live and to work.

This week, the Farm Safety Foundation will highlight some of the key issues facing the farming community, spotlight the work being done to drive a change in attitudes and behaviours and introduce ten inspirational farm safety heroes who have worked tirelessly over the past decade to reduce the injury risk for farmers and farming families across the UK and Ireland.

Agriculture is different from many industries in that it can present hazards to people not actively involved in the industry, such as children and family members living on the farm and visitors, in addition to farm workers. Hazards can also exist for vets, delivery workers and even the emergency medical services personnel, as they provide assistance and care to victims of farm incidents.

Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation manager, stated: “Despite an encouraging improvement in the HSE figures over the past year, these are very sobering statistics.

“We must remember that these are not just statistics – behind every fatal notification is a worker, a visitor or a child.

“We cannot become immune to the impact that each and every death has on farming families and communities across the UK and Ireland. Ten years after our first campaign, we cannot continue to accept that risk-taking is part and parcel of farming – we have to work harder to make it safer.

“Awareness of farm safety is at an all-time high with 66 per cent of farmers in the UK (80 per cent of under 40s) aware of Farm Safety Week according to NFU Mutual’s Voice of the Farmer 2022 survey - but the fact remains that, over the past year, 25 people lost their lives on GB farms so, awareness may be one thing but the time has come for action.

“This is why, a decade on, a focus like Farm Safety Week is still important. When many voices join together to drive a change, this is when it can happen.

“We should be farming safely every day of the year not just during Farm Safety Week.”

Sue Thompson, Head of Agriculture, Health and Safety Executive, commented: “I congratulate the Farm Safety Foundation for the great work they’ve done over the last 10 years to raise the profile of farm incidents and their consequences.

“However, there are farming families left devasted every year when their loved ones are badly injured or killed while doing their jobs. We are starting to see safety improvements in some areas, but the pace of change is slow, and the rates of workplace injury and ill health in agriculture remain the highest of any major sector.

“Awareness of the hazards and risk have never been higher, and Farm Safety Week has played its part in this.

“But it’s regrettable that we’re not yet seeing the widespread changes in attitude towards safety, and the improvements in behaviour that will reduce the numbers of people hurt or made ill.”

“Far too many farmers and farm workers suffer life-changing injury and lifelong chronic illness resulting from poor health and safety management.

“Everyone in agriculture has a role to play in making the changes we all want to see. Together, we can make farming safer.”

Stephanie added: “As a small charity that has delivered training sessions to over 18,000 young farmers in land-based colleges and universities across the UK and through the young farmers clubs network, the Foundation knows - and our research supports this - that the next generation of farmers are cultivating a better attitude to risk-taking and are starting to drive better safety behaviours in the workplace.

“Farming is an industry where people do not retire at 65 so, with the oldest farm worker killed over the past year being 85 years of age, we need to look after our older workers so they can continue to support the farm business and carry out tasks are appropriate for their mobility, agility and health conditions.”

“But the truth is, farmers of ALL ages need to start challenging and changing their attitudes so we can make our farms safer places to work and to live.”

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek

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