Farm safety leaders have called for an urgent rethink into the way farmers aged 60 and over consider safe working.
The impact of the eldering workforce was last week highlighted as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that despite making up just 10 per cent of the national workforce, the 60+ age group contributed to more than 40 per cent of work-related fatalities in 2017/18 – the highest it had been in over a decade and up from 25 per cent last year.
Of the 144 workers killed in 2017/18, 29 were in the agricultural sector – one more than the five-year annual average and 14 of which were over the age of 65.
Stephanie Berkeley of the Farm Safety Foundation, a small independent charity established to target Young Farmers of 16 to 40 years, said work with the younger generation had shown that behavioural change was possible and ‘the physical and mental well-being of our wonderful farmers merits an ongoing focus and real action’.
She said: “We have trained over 7,500 Young Farmers at land based colleges and Young Farmers Clubs across the UK with our unique farm safety training and have been successful at raising awareness of the issue among our own target age group, however it is worrying and disconcerting for us to read that nearly half the farm workers killed (14 of 29) over the past year were over the age of 65 with an incredible three quarters of those killed over the age of 60.
“Awareness of farm safety issues has never been higher however awareness is one thing – the time has come for action.”
HSE said the fatal injury rate of 8.44 agricultural workers per 100,000 remained higher than any other main industry sector, at about five times higher than construction and 19 times higher than the all industry rate.
NFU vice president Stuart Roberts said: “Farmers are very passionate about their role in producing food for the nation, and for many people this means working long beyond what others would see as a normal retirement age.
“While the industry benefits heavily from this knowledge, heritage and experience, we must be mindful that an accumulation of years can coincide with a reduction in agility and resilience.
“It is vital we all take appropriate precautions in the workplace as we get older.”