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Life and Death on the Farm

In the South West there were five farming related deaths for the period 2017/18. That may not sound significant, but farming accounts for a fifth of all worker fatalities in Britain and is one of the most dangerous industries to work in.

The obvious reason is that farms are often small family businesses with low budgets when it comes to avoiding risk. However, farmers are not exempt from health and safety law.

In October 2015 the law was changed to exempt some self-employed from health and safety law, but Parliament decided agriculture should be an activity to which the full remit of health and safety law applies, regardless of whether a farmer works just for himself or others.

Recent data for 2017/18 tells us:

  • Of the 33 farming related deaths across Great Britain that year, the youngest victim was 4 years old; the oldest was 85 (and still working). 
  • Nearly half of the agricultural workers killed were over 65 and a staggering 72% were over 60. 
  • Of the 33 who died that year, only 4 were visitors, the rest were farm workers and most of these were self-employed.
  • A common cause of death is working with and near cattle.
  • Almost half the deaths involved farm machinery- including being crushed under tractors or equipment, being run over by a farm vehicle, faulty brakes and using lifting equipment.

Ashfords partner, Flora Wood, comments:

Farm fatalities are tragic and often avoidable. A serious accident or death could lead to a civil claim or criminal prosecution and of course when it happens on a farm, the accident victim will probably be someone known to the farm - perhaps a relative or local farm labourer. This makes these avoidable accidents even harder to bear.”

The poor record for safety on farms has led to the HSE making agriculture a priority sector and publishing an Intervention Strategy in 2017.

The Strategy endorses Farm Inspections, safety campaigns (such as Farm Safety Week) and engagement with groups such as Young Farmers. The HSE guide “Farmwise” is a sensible starting point for farmers and responsible farm businesses must ensure that workers and contractors are skilled and use proper equipment that is adequately serviced and appropriate for the job.

Farmers need to understand the benchmarks to set themselves against. The HSE Strategy also plans to get core farm safety messages across in simple guides which set out ‘what a good farm looks like”.

If you need advice in relation to prevention or support following a serious or fatal accident on a farm please contact Flora Wood from our Personal Injury Team on f.wood@ashfords.co.uk or Ben Derrington from our Business Risk and Regulation Team b.derrington@ashfords.co.uk

Please see the links to these two documents related to the article above: Farmwise Guide and Farm Intervention Strategy

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