Deaths on British farms up by 50%

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Accidents with fatalities rose by 50% on British farms last year, the Health and Safety Executive has revealed.

There were 38 deaths in farming in the year to April 2010, up from 25 in the previous year. This compares with 151 deaths across all industries, a fall of 27 on 2008/09.

HSE chairman Judith Hackitt said that she would urge her children not to take up a career in farming because of the dangers.

"I would be concerned if my children wanted to go into farming because of its very poor safety record which is two-and-a-half times worse than construction."

"As well as the high number of deaths there are also hundreds of injuries, many of which we don't hear about."

The HSE has recently conducted its "Make the Promise. Come home safe" campaign. Although Ms Hackitt said it had been a success, she acknowledged that its impact would be limited without farmers themselves taking health and safety more seriously.

The fatality figures have prompted the NFU to call for a concerted effort to make agriculture safer.

NFU president Peter Kendall said the fact that deaths had not declined when the number of farmers has fallen means the industry's safety record is actually getting worse.

He gathered support from NFU council delegates for a campaign and summit to bring together all parts of the industry to see how health and safety can be improved. The summit is likely to take place in the autumn.

The problem with accidents, fatal or otherwise, in farming is, in the same way as in forestry, due to often a lackadaisical attitude to safety by workers and especially those that are not working with some of those tools on a daily basis.

The chainsaw comes to mind here where many people cut corners when using it – pardon the pun – and then accidents happen. At times this is due just because they wear the safety kit and lose all fear of the tool.

As a poster says that was designed by EcoFor Publishing, part of Tatchipen Media, states “Chainsaws take no prisoners” and the same applies to many farm machines and implements and they all must be treated with the utmost care.

It would appear, aside from the fact that there are fewer farmers nowadays and thus it means that the safety record on British farms is getting worse, that the amount of safety equipment has not done any good either.

In fact, as to the safety this and that, I believe that the over-amount of safety features and kit in fact has brought about the previously mentioned lackadaisical approach by many users of farming machinery and tools.

When I started out in forestry as a child still and was using small chainsaws with the age of eleven accidents were, as far as it would appear, fewer than today and that despite the fact that we has no Kevelar trousers, chainsaw protective gloves and helmets.

Chainsaws were drop-started routinely by all those working them and – yet again – no one, as far as I am aware, of the professional woodsmen hurt themselves doing that as long as they were sober.

Have we become complacent because we believe that the protective kit will always work and protect us?

Let's get back to some real decent common sense. That may cut down accidents better than regulation.

© 2010