Fighting to improve farm safety

Friday 5th August 2022 8:00 am
Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash ()

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TEN years after its first campaign to advocate for the improvement of the agricultural industry’s safety record, charity organiser Yellow Wellies launched its annual Farm Safety Awareness Week.

Despite relentless campaigning, farming continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, with a fatal injury rate 21 times higher than the national average.While injuries and fatalities in the wider UK are on the decline, the South West is actually experiencing an increase.

According to a government report, there were eight fatal injuries recorded in the South West during 2020/2021, and a further six in the 2021/2022 period, the highest in the country and a spike from previous years. The majority of fatalities were self-employed men and over a third were over 65.

Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of the Farm Safety Foundation, said: ‘The South West has a proud heritage of farming, however, the industry continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK. Half of the fatal injuries that occurred last year in the South West were workers over the age of 60. The average age of a UK farmer is 59 so, engaging with this important audience is key to making a real difference.’

Devon’s farming community has suffered a series of tragic deaths this summer, including 67 -year-old Philip Taylor in May and 17-year-old Luke Searle in June.

‘Despite an encouraging improvement in the HSE figures over the past year, these are very sobering statistics. We must remember that these are not just statistics – behind every fatal notification is a worker, a visitor or a child. We cannot become immune to the impact that each and every death has on farming families and communities across the UK and Ireland. Ten years after our first campaign, we cannot continue to accept that risk-taking is part and parcel of farming – we have to work harder to make it safer. This is why, a decade on, a focus like Farm Safety Week is still important. When many voices join together to drive a change, this is when it can happen. We should be farming safely every day of the year not just during Farm Safety Week.’

However, the next generation of farmers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers in their profession. Stephanie added: ‘As a small charity that has delivered training sessions to over 18,000 young farmers in land-based colleges and universities across the UK and through the young farmers clubs network, the Foundation knows - and our research supports this - that the next generation of farmers are cultivating a better attitude to risk-taking and are starting to drive better safety behaviours in the workplace.’

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