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HSE chair ‘concerned and frustrated’ about UK farm sector’s failure to improve

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The chair of HSE, Martin Temple, has written an open letter to the farm industry to urge farmers to ‘listen and look’ for guidance to prevent needless deaths and injuries on farms.


On 15 August, he wrote: “I was prompted to write this letter after reviewing the recently released statistics on fatalities in the workplace, where 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.

“It is clear there has been little real improvement in managing risk effectively on farms,” he continued.

The rate of injury and death on farms is around 18 times higher than all other industries

32 people died in agriculture in 2018/19, up from 29 in the year before, and higher than the average for the past five years (29 deaths). The rate of injury and death is around 18 times higher than all other industries. 

Last year, two children under the age of five were killed on farms. After the 2018/19 fatalities were published, two further fatalities involving young people were reported this summer. Iris Goldsmith, 15, died when her 'all-terrain vehicle' overturned near her father’s farm in Somerset and Harry Lee, 4, died after he fell from a vehicle on a farm in Lancashire.

“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,” said Temple.

He said there could be a culture of ‘it won’t happen to me’, based on the relative unlikelihood of being involved in a fatal incident:

“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.”

HSE has made farming a priority sector to tackle as part of its five year strategy.

The regulator has also lent its backing to the Farm Safety Partnership, a collective of agriculture organisations, which last year pledged to halve the number of farming fatalities by 2023.

“The sentiments in this letter are ones of concern, and to some degree frustration, that messages are not getting through.  

“My plea through this letter is for everyone working in agriculture to...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.”

Safety Management’s article on keeping children safe on farms is in the September issue.

 

 

 

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