• 2 min read

How safe is the agriculture & farming industry now?


The HSE has released details of the workplace fatal injuries that were reported to enforcing authorities in 2018/19. A total of 147 workers were killed at work in Great Britain in 2018/19. This represents an increase of 6 fatalities from 2017/18. Fatal injuries are relatively rare events and there is of course a degree of chance involved in the figures year on year but this does suggest that we should not be resting on our laurels.

A deeper analysis reveals that Agriculture, forestry and fishing accounts for the greatest number of fatalities at 32, with construction not far behind at 30. This fatality rate is very significantly higher than the average across all industries.

Across all industries the most common kind of fatal accidents to workers involve falls from height; being struck by moving vehicles; being struck by other moving objects; contact with moving machinery and being trapped by something collapsing or overturning. Furthermore, 8 of the fatalities were caused by animals. These are all things to look out for in a farming context.

Fatal injuries to workers across all industries are predominately to male workers. In the year 2018/19 males accounted for 95 per cent of all worker fatalities. This is a similar proportion to earlier years. Fatal injuries also occur disproportionately to older workers with 25 per cent of fatal injuries in 2018/19 to workers aged 60 and over, even though such workers made up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.

Over a quarter of fatal injuries in 2018/19 were to self employed workers and many of these worked in Agriculture. Overall the fatal injury rate for the self-employed is more than double that for employees.

On a more positive note that UK consistently has one of the lowest rates of fatal injuries across the EU. It compares favourably with other large economies such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland. The longer terms trend has also been positive with 147 deaths in 2018/19 compared to 253 in 1998/99 and 495 in 1981.

We consider our country to be much safer than many others in the world and many people joke about the red tape involved in an over emphasis of ‘elf and safety in the workplace. However, these sobering statistics suggest that we cannot afford to reduce our vigilance as we head into a new decade.

Kelvin Farmaner is a Partner with Trethowans, he has written extensively on the subject of safety in the context of farming and agriculture and in particular regarding liability for animals following on from acting for the successful party in the case of Mirvahedy v Henley 2003 in the Court of Appeal and The House of Lords (the case in which the court defined the responsibilities of keepers of animals under Section 2 of the Animals Act 1971).

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