HSE calls on farmers to make safety a priority after a series of serious incidents
Britain’s workplace regulator says more must be done to improve farm safety after being notified of four fatalities on farms in just over a fortnight.
Fatal incidents the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has become aware of include the death of a three-year-old boy in Wales and a suspected cattle-trampling in Marshfield earlier this week.
There has also been a report of a separate incident involving members of the public being attacked by cattle.
The incidents come just three weeks after Farm Safety Week, when HSE issued its Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21 report highlighting the high fatality rate in the industry.
The figures showed that agriculture has the worst rate of fatal injuries of all the major industrial sectors, around 20 times higher than the average five-year annual rate across all industries.
HSE’s acting head of agriculture Adrian Hodkinson said: “While we must respect the ongoing investigations following these tragic incidents, most injuries or deaths that we’ve historically seen on farms have been both predictable and preventable.
“Despite the efforts of the Farm Safety Partnership in particular, an industry-wide change in attitude is needed for farmers to take action to protect themselves and others to the well-known risks they face.
“At this time of year, we have additional factors such as the school holidays and higher numbers of members of the public enjoying the summer weather and walking along public footpaths through fields with cattle.
“But we ask that farmers, farm workers and farming contractors take the right steps to stop these incidents. At this time of year, it’s important to manage risk from livestock and, with harvest well underway, to work safely with farm machinery.
He added: “The fatality rate within the sector is high, but there are simple measures workers can take to reduce risk including making sure to switch off the power to vehicles or machinery before attempting to carry out repairs, keeping people away from moving vehicles; and ensuring dairy bulls, and cows with calves are not in fields with public footpaths.
“We are urging people who work on farms to make safety a priority and help us to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in the industry.”
Guidance in managing livestock, reducing the risks to children and the public, and maintaining farm vehicles and machinery is available on the HSE website.
Workers within the sector are also encouraged to seek help and advice from any of the Farm Safety Partnerships or leading farming organisations if they require guidance and support for specific tasks or activities.
Chair of Farm Safety Partnership England Stuart Roberts said: “The number of deaths on farmland is deeply upsetting. The fact remains that there have been four deaths in the last two weeks alone – that is four too many. Every farmer has a responsibility to make safety their number one priority, especially as we enter the height of the school holidays with more families visiting the countryside.
“A lot of accidents are, tragically, easily avoided and there are some relative simple and inexpensive changes we can all implement, starting with remembering to always assess risks. We also need to ensure all of us wear helmets on quad bikes, check machinery regularly and implement the Safe Stop procedure every time we leave the cab.”