As the UK and Ireland’s annual Farm Safety Week campaign begins, the charity behind it issues a challenge to everyone living and working in the industry to step up and take personal responsibility for farm safety. New figures released today show:
- 6 members of the public, including a child, were also fatally injured bringing the total to 27 people who lost their lives on farms in GB in 2022/23
- An additional 15 fatal injuries were recorded on the island of Ireland in 2022/23 bringing the total for the UK and Ireland to 42
- Farm Safety Week 2023 aims to reduce the number of incidents which continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK & Ireland
Monday 17 July 2023: Farming has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland, with 42 people losing their lives on UK and Ireland farms over the past year.
Health and safety
The Farm Safety Foundation (‘Yellow Wellies’), the charity behind the annual Farm Safety Week campaign believes that, despite the improvements in attitudes and behaviours in the industry, many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented.
With agricultural mortality rates remaining stubbornly high compared with other sectors in which fatal accident rates have generally decreased, the farming industry can’t keep ploughing on – something needs to change.
The figures released today from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in GB Report 2022/23, support this as it is revealed that, after an encouraging improvement in the previous year’s figures, this year’s numbers show that 27 lives were lost on farms in Great Britain compared to 30 last year with 33% of people killed aged 65 and over.
A farm is not a playground
Of the 27 people killed in England, Scotland and Wales in the past year, 21 were farm workers and 6 were members of the public, including a child.
According to Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation manager:
“The release of this year’s HSE figures serves as a sombre reminder of why Farm Safety Week matters and why we must all do more to address the poor safety record in the industry and make our farms safer places to work and to live.
“This is not just our problem – it is a worldwide problem. According to the International Labour Office (ILO) agriculture employs half of the world’s labour force but remains one of the three most hazardous sectors of activity (along with construction and mining).
“However, in Great Britain, for a sector that employs 472,000 people which is only 1% of the working population, the fatality rate in agriculture accounts for a shocking 18% of all deaths in the workplace and an additional 23,000 farm workers suffer long term ill-health or serious injury in the industry every year.”
The picture remains similar in Northern Ireland where farming accounted for 3 of the 8 (38%) reported workplace fatalities in 2022/2023 (HSENI). In the Republic of Ireland, farming – which accounts for 8% of the workforce (according to CSO’s Labour Force Survey) has 40% of all workplace fatal incidents – 12 of the 20 reported in 2022/2023.
Why farm safety matters
“The UK & Ireland recorded a total of 42 farm-related deaths over the past year.42 families and communities devastated by the loss of a loved one.
“This is why Farm Safety Week matters. It is personal. Every year, hundreds of people, organisations and communities support the campaign. Farming unions, Young Farmers Clubs, and many key agricultural businesses work with us throughout the week to share important safety reminders, remember those people who have been affected by death and injuries, and ultimately campaign for safer farms for everyone.”
Agriculture is a priority sector for Health and Safety Executive
Sue Thompson, Head of Agriculture, Health & Safety Executive, said:
“Agriculture is a vital part of the UK economy and it is not acceptable that it continues to fall short when it comes to managing risk in the workplace. It is all the more tragic that we still see children killed by farming activities. As an industry we must not tolerate this any longer. We need everyone to play their part to improve the culture and change the poor behaviours we see far too frequently.
“Agriculture will continue to be a priority sector for HSE. We are committed to making workplaces safer and healthier and holding employers to account for their actions, as part of our mission to protect people and places.
“Awareness of the hazards and health risks and legal requirements has never been higher. It’s great that Farm Safety Week brings the issue into focus.
“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 injured or killed.
“Farming is one of the few industries in which members of the public and family members (who often share the work and live on the premises) are also at risk for fatal and non-fatal injuries. In fact, over the past five years 25 members of the public have lost their lives of GB farms.
“Farming is also an industry where people do not retire at 65 so, while we are seeing an encouraging improvement in the attitudes and behaviours in the next generation of farmers, we are also seeing a disproportionately higher number of older farmers losing their lives in farm incidents 33% of fatal injuries were in people over the age of 65.
“The fact is, every single one of us living and working in the industry needs to step up and take responsibility and challenge and change 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.
Quick facts about Farm Safety Week:
- The Farm Safety Foundation will launch Farm Safety Week on Monday 17 July 2023.
- Farm Safety Week is an annual initiative led by the Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies) and supported by hundreds of farming businesses and organisations across the five partners countries – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
- The Farm Safety Foundation website, www.yellowwellies.org, offers articles, resources and advice on farm safety and mental health to support Farm Safety Week or follow #FarmSafetyWeek on social media.
About the Farm Safety Foundation:
Rising concern over the continuing high level of fatal and life-changing injury accidents on farms prompted leading rural insurer NFU Mutual to set up a charitable foundation in 2014 to help farmers work safely (Registered Charity No. 1159000). The Foundation works closely with partners in the industry to engage, educate and communicate strong and relatable farm safety messages. Over the past eight years, the FSF has developed and delivered farm safety training for 21,000 young farmers in 44 land-based colleges and universities throughout the UK and through the Young Farmers’ Club network.
Through providing resources including their Build Your Own Health & Safety Policy digital tool and The Little Book of Minding Your Head as well as national campaigns such as Farm Safety Week and Mind Your Head, the Farm Safety Foundation is preserving and protecting the physical and mental wellbeing of the next generation of farmers and equipping them with smart strategies and specific skills to live well and farm well.