Fatal injuries on UK farms have almost doubled over the past year, from 21 deaths in 2019/20 to 41 in 2020/21.

As the ninth annual Farm Safety Week gets underway, these latest statistics have once again confirmed agriculture as holder of the poorest safety record of any industry in the UK and Ireland.

According to the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind the campaign, farmers over the age of 60 accounted for 53% of those killed, with the fatal injury rate over four times higher for the 65s and over compared to the 16-24 age group.

FSF highlighted that although farming's workforce accounts for a mere 1% of Britain's working population, the industry accounts for nearly a quarter of all workplace fatal injuries, giving it an accident rate almost 20 times higher than the GB industry average.

The Health and Safety Executive's annual Fatal Injuries in Agriculture Forestry and Fishing in GB Report for 2021/21 detailed that of the 41 people in England, Scotland and Wales killed in agriculture, 34 were farm workers and seven were members of the public. The fatalities also included two children.

“Agriculture is a vital part of our economy and everyone involved is rightly proud of the quality and standard of the food produced.” said the HSE's acting head of agriculture, Adrian Hodkinson. “However, this appears to come at a significant cost to many farmers and workers in terms of serious injury, lifelong ill health and in some cases death.

“The causes of farm incidents are well known and the things to stop them are usually straightforward: putting on handbrakes; fastening lap belts in cabs; getting ATV training and helmets; putting cows and calves in fields without footpaths; stopping things before trying to fix or unblock them and so on.

“When we investigate life-changing farm workplace incidents we find, time and time again, that risks are not being removed or managed," said Mr Hodkinson. "It is far too common for people to accept risk is an inevitable part of the job – this isn’t the case, the guidance is easily available to manage the risks and prevent injury.

“It is not acceptable that agriculture continues to fail to manage risk in the workplace. We need everyone to play their part to change their own behaviours, do things the right way and ‘call out’ poor practices whenever they are seen."

FSF manager Stephanie Berkeley said: “Today’s HSE report is a desperately disappointing read with some very sober statistics. The fact that farming has a fatality rate almost 20 times the GB industry average is shocking and shameful. 41 people lost their lives on our farms over the past year including two children – this is 18 more than the previous year. We can’t allow ourselves to become immune to the impact that these deaths have on farming families and communities. We can’t just accept that farming is a dangerous occupation. We have to redouble our efforts to drive a change.

“The main causes of fatal farm incidents have not changed over the past 60 years despite legislation and an increased awareness of the importance of working safely," she stressed. “We need to reassess the risk of everyday tasks and think about the long-term consequences of each and every risk we have taken and do something to either remove it or control it. Complacency kills –many farmers think they know their farm and the risks involved in going about their daily tasks. However, those risks change day-to-day and next time things might not work out the same way. We want to encourage those living and working in the industry to rethink risk, to carry out risk assessments and most importantly put in controls that suit the circumstances of any busy farm.

“As an industry, we need to work together so that farm safety is acknowledged as important. We need to do more than sit around and talk about it. We need action! This is why Farm Safety Week is still so important. Over the past nine years, we have been very privileged to have an opportunity to bring together a wide range of organisations and individuals who really do care about the issue and want to drive safety forwards. We need to engage with farmers of all ages to challenge and change attitudes and ultimately make our farms safer places to work.”

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit www.yellowwellies.org or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek