The Shocking Truth about Deaths within the Farming Industry

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13 July 2017
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13 July 2017, Comments 0

It is evident that certain occupations can be more dangerous than others due to the nature of work that is carried out. However, one that consistently tops the list of hazardous industries is farming. It is becoming increasingly alarming that farmers are exposed to high levels of danger and more inclined to suffer fatal injuries and even a loss of life whist working on their farms.

From the latest Health and Safety Executive statistics (HSE) worrying figures can be drawn from the farming safety record. Last year, 27 people lost their lives following a work place accident on a farm.

One story that has raised awareness of the dangers of farming occurred two days before Christmas 2016.  Two men aged 19 and 35 died in a slurry tank on a farm in Leicestershire. Despite the best efforts of fire crews to cut the men free, the two farm workers sadly lost their lives. Other unfortunate deaths caused by an agricultural occupation included Somerset farmer, Derek Mead, who was crushed by his own vehicle after it was reportedly switched on in motion by his dog. These deaths were just a few out of more than 300 on British farms over the past decade.

Statistically, farms are the most dangerous places to work in the UK. Construction work is five times safer than farm work (per year there are on average two deaths per 100,000 in construction, compared to 10 per 100,000 in farming). “All of the deaths we see are needless,” said Rick Brunt, head of vulnerable workers, agriculture, waste and recycling at the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Out of the 27 deaths that occurred in 2016, the causes that were more prominent in numbers were as followed:

  • Seven of the deaths were caused by vehicle accidents

Two of these involved tractors, a 42-year-old employee died when the tractor rolled over trapping him inside; a 68-year-old self-employed farmer was found trapped underneath a tractor and trailed fertiliser spreader.

  • Six of the deaths were caused by fall from height

A 61-year-old self-employed farmer was removing roof sheets when he fell through a fragile barn roof, and a 51-year-old self-employed farmer was walking on the roof when he fell through a plastic roof light onto the concrete floor below.

  • Four of the deaths were caused by drowning

Two workers were found dead in an underground slurry pit while attempting to clear a blockage pipe.
A 73-year-old self-employed man in a family farming business was found drowned in a pond on the farm.

The remaining deaths were caused by one off accidents caused by fires, falls, contact with electricity, and lastly death caused by animal.

Can these horrific incidents be prevented?

Although in some cases accidents cannot be helped, when extra care and precaution is put in place they can be preventable.

As previously mentioned, vehicle accidents always top other types of accidents when it comes to the number of agricultural related deaths. The National Farmers Union’s chief farm safety adviser, Tom Price stated that “in the last 10 years, 36 of the 98 vehicle fatalities were caused by the operator being run over by his own vehicle,” Mr Price added, These 36 lives could very likely have been saved”. The NFU clearly state the ‘stop safe’ procedure is not always carried out appropriately which has been the cause of most of these deaths. This procedure involves insuring the handbrake of the vehicle is on all the way, the controls must be in neutral, the engine must be completely off and the key must also be removed.
Training is also an important measure to educate farmers on potential risks and hazards that they may face. Some businesses have started to incorporate training into their safety culture due to the worrying death figures of this industry. Wayland Farm in Norfolk, has made this a priority. Two years ago, Peter Buckle, an HGV driver employed by the business, died in an accident after a tailgate fell on him while he was loading rubbish into the back of the vehicle. Robin Simon- health & safety, environmental and welfare manager at Wayland, said that following this incident the farmers are much more careful when completing tasks. Wayland Farm, alongside many other farms in the UK are starting to make improvements to their training programmes and are starting to incorporate yearly training on how to work at height, how to handle machinery and vehicle control.

Lone worker safety solutions

It is also important to emphasise that most farmers work alone. Being a lone worker does not increase the risk of injury or death however it does mean that if an incident was to take place, getting help may be significantly harder.

If you are a farmer who works alone, it may be a good idea to inform someone on your location and times of absence before you set off for your day. It is also advisable that you carry a personal safety device with you at all times to give you a much more reliable form of security. Guardian24’s Microguard device provides lone workers with discreet and convenient protection at the touch of the button. Alternatively, if you are an individual who works in this farming industry in remote areas with no mobile signal, Guardian24 offers the award winning SPOT Gen3 device that uses satellite technology to transmit SOS alarms to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). Our Controllers can pinpoint the users GPS location and follow their personalised escalation procedures. As the device is not relying on mobile phone technology, it is able to transmit its location from almost anywhere; even in areas of poor or no mobile network coverage. This capability makes SPOT the ideal solution for lone workers who frequently visit areas with mobile network ‘black spots’.

If you would like to find out more about Guardian24’s lone worker solutions click here.

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