If any other business or industrial sector had the same death toll as agriculture there would be uproar. Imagine if a sector such as aerospace or car manufacturing had seen nine people killed in February alone by a mixture of falling implements and runaway vehicles, the authorities and media would be all over them.
In agriculture, however, the rising tide of death and serious injury continues to spiral out of control, with February’s figures genuinely shocking. Maybe we have an industry built on machismo and self image, but the devastating set of statistics which show 13 people dead on UK farms since the start of 2017 has to act an urgent wake-up call for a professional sector which is sleep walking towards reputational damage.
And let’s face some facts: while those who have died on-farm represent the tragic apex of a horrific few months, there will be many more during this period who have been seriously injured and will have to live with the physical consequences for a lifetime. Some might think near misses don’t count, but lives will have been blighted by a momentary lapse of concentration or corner cut.
The challenge for farming is that the shocking lack of health and safety awareness seems deeply ingrained within the culture of the industry. If we are going to change behaviour and the scourge of death and heartache, we need a shift in mindset which enables safer working practices to be driven in to the core of farming businesses.
Organisations and bodies such as the Farm Safety Partnership are doing a valiant job, but farmers need to listen to the messages they are putting out.
The 13 deaths on UK farms this year represent 13 lives gone forever; scores of families torn apart; friendships groups missing key individuals; and farming businesses without workers or leaders. We have to get a grip of this problem before more people are subjected to unimaginable suffering.
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