Chairman of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Martin Temple has written an open letter following what he said was ‘little improvement’ in managing risk effectively on farm.
Mr Temple said he was forced to write the letter in light of the recent health and safety figures which again branded agriculture as having one of the worst incident rates across all sectors.
He said: “While there have been some in-roads and improvements made by the industry, the recent rise in the number of fatalities, although subject to natural variation, concerns me.
“There is no doubt farming is a complex working environment where large machinery is the norm and time is a precious commodity.
“However, it is an industry where farmers and their families are at the heart of the operational decision-making yet appear to put less value on the health and safety of themselves and their workers than other industries.”
The farmer’s son said he could imagine that with about 30 deaths a year, a feeling of ‘it won’t happen to me’ had put health and safety down the list of priorities.
HSE figures from 2018-19 showed 39 people were killed in agriculture, including seven members of the public – two of which were children.
Mr Temple said: “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 one in 10.”
Since his time living on the farm, Mr Temple said ‘the risks are not new and the ways to manage them are well known’.
And the culture across the industry remained a problem, he said, but the question should surround how to prevent an incident.
Mr Temple said: “My plea through this letter is for everyone working in agriculture to think every day about the ‘prevent’ word, listen to the help and look out for the guidance which is available not only from ourselves, but your industry bodies and colleagues, so as you go about your business you think in ways that keep you and your workforce running a successful business safely.”