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Concern over rise in fatalities in the farming industry, Lynn News letters

Once again agriculture is shown to have one of the worst rates across all sectors. This year made even more poignant in the light of some of the recent deaths on farms involving young people.

I feel compelled to write this letter because it is clear there has been little real improvement in managing risk effectively on farms. While there have been someimprovements made by the industry, the recent rise in the number of fatalities concerns me.

The infrastructure of farms and the equipment used becomes ever larger and more sophisticated but is no more or less dangerous than that being used in many other industries where risk is being managed much more effectively. I wonder why agriculture cannot improve in the same way, especially when many of the incidents follow very similar patterns.

Farm machinery
Farm machinery

The agriculture industry has a rate of fatal injury about 18 times higher than the average across all other industries. I can imagine that with around thirty deaths a year in a workforce of approximately quarter of a million, there is a feeling that despite the tragedy of such events, the calculation of ‘it won’t happen to me’ puts health and safety down the list of priorities. However, if one considers the figures for significant work-related injuries and ill-health, the odds become dramatically more worrying. The chances of someone working on a farm today receiving a work-related injury or health problem over a five-year period is around 1 in 10.

As a farmer’s son who grew up on the family farm in the 50s, 60s and 70s, I have a genuine desire for the agriculture industry to grow and thrive safely. Since the time I lived on the farm, I see that many of the risks aren’t new and the ways to manage them are well known. For example, regulations to safeguard children on farms and guards that protect workers from parts linking machinery have been around since the 1950s, yet 60 years on children are still dying on farms and farm workers are still being killed by moving vehicles and equipment.

The Act under which the HSE carries out its activities, charges us to ‘prevent death, injury and ill-health at work’.

My plea through this letter is for everyone working in agriculture to think every day about the ‘prevent’ word, listen to the help and look out for the guidance which is available so as you go about your business you think in ways that keep you and your workforce running a successful business safely.

Martin Temple

HSE chairman

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