Health and safety in agriculture
Statistics show that agriculture, forestry and fishing is the riskiest industry sector with the highest numbers and rates of injury and fatalities. Just over 1 in 100 workers (employees and the self-employed) work in agriculture, but it accounts for about 1 in 5 fatal injuries to workers.
In the last 10 years, almost 1 person a week has been killed as a direct result of agricultural work. Many more have been seriously injured or made ill by their work.
“Health and safety is often portrayed in the media as unnecessary or a bureaucratic barrier to business, but it is a fundamental requirement of a sustainable farming business and should be regarded as an essential part of farm business management,” said Lee Hart, Partner in the Serious Injury Team at Clarke Willmott.
“I have seen at first hand the personal costs of injury and ill health which can be devastating. Even though we do what we can to rebuild lives, life is never the same again for family members left behind after a work related death, or for those looking after someone with a severe injury or long term illness,” he added.
Managing risks in a sensible way protects farmers, their families, their workers and their businesses and can bring the following benefits:
- a reduction in injuries and ill health and the resulting financial and personal costs;
- improved productivity, good morale and a happier, healthier workforce;
- better farming practice to help develop the sustainable farming business;
- reduced sickness payments and recruiting/training costs for replacement workers;
- reduced loss of output resulting from experienced and competent workers being off work;
- lower insurance premiums and legal costs;
- less chance of enforcement action and its costs, e.g. the cost of dealing with an incident and/or fines;
- reduced risk of damage to the reputation of the business.
The total annual cost of injuries in this sector is estimated at £190 million, around two-thirds of which is due to reportable injuries with fatalities accounting for around another third.
The most common causes of death are:
- transport (being struck by moving vehicles);
- being struck by a moving or falling object;
- falls from height;
- asphyxiation or drowning;
- contact with machinery;
- injury by an animal;
- being trapped by something collapsing or overturning;
- contact with electricity (nearly two-thirds of which involves overhead power lines).
There are many more injuries which do not result in death. Less than half of reportable injuries to workers across all industry sectors are reported each year, but the levels for agriculture, forestry and fishing is much lower. Surveys suggest that of those injuries to workers in agriculture, which should be reported by law, only 16% are actually reported. The Health & Safety Executive estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 unreported injuries in the industry each year. Each one involves costs to the injured person and to the business.
The Health & Safety Executive offers extensive information and advice to reduce the risks of injury and death on the farm. This includes (but is not exclusive to):
- working safely with agricultural machinery;
- manual handling at work;
- provision and use of work equipment;
- inspection and maintenance of work equipment;
- lifting operations;
- personal protective equipment;
- instruction and training.
Farmers can obtain free practical advice on how to avoid accidents through the HSE’s Safety and Health Awareness Days
The NFU also provides guidance, for example:
- safety focus on farm machinery;
- farm vehicle health check scheme;
- safety focus on farm transport.
If you or someone you know would benefit from advice or assistance in relation to an agricultural accident, please contact Lee Hart.