The challenge from the Farm Safety Foundation (Yellow Wellies) came as new figures showed six members of the public, including a child, were fatally injured on farms in Great Britain in 2022/23, bringing the total number of fatalities to 27. A third of those killed were aged 65 and over.
An additional 15 fatal injuries were recorded on the island of Ireland in 2022/23, according to the latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing in GB Report.
Farm Safety Week, which launched yesterday (Monday, July 17), aims to reduce the number of incidents which continue to give farming the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK and Ireland.
Yellow Wellies believes that, despite the improvements in attitudes and behaviours in the industry, many of these deaths and injuries could be prevented.
Of the 27 people killed in England, Scotland and Wales in the past year, 21 were farm workers and six were members of the public, including a child.
Stephanie Berkeley, Farm Safety Foundation manager, said: “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 one per cent of the working population, the fatality rate in agriculture accounts for a shocking 18 per cent 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 three of the eight (38 per cent) reported workplace fatalities in 2022/2023 (HSENI). In the Republic of Ireland, farming – which accounts for eight per cent of the workforce (according to CSO’s Labour Force Survey) has 40 per cent of all workplace fatal incidents – 12 of the 20 reported in 2022/2023.
Stephanie said: “The UK and 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.
“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.”
Sue Thompson, the HSE’s head of agriculture, added: “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.”
For more information on Farm Safety Week and safety tips visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek.