ACTION IS needed to reduce the death and injury toll on Scotland’s farms and crofts, with new figures showing an increase in agriculture-related deaths in Scotland.

Coinciding with the annual farm safety week, led by the Farm Safety Foundation, the Health and Safety Executive has released its latest figures for fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing for the UK, revealing 13 people died on Scottish farms and crofts in 2018/2019 – five more deaths than the previous year.

A total of 39 people were reportedly killed on farms over the past year in Great Britain, with 47% of fatal injuries happening to workers over 60 years of age.

The report concludes that agriculture has the worst rate of worker fatal injuries per 100,000 of the main industrial sectors across the UK - 18 times as high as the average rate across all industries.

Although the construction industry employs seven times more workers than that of agriculture, forestry and fishing - figures reveal that you are seven times more likely to be killed on a farm than on a construction site.

Farm Safety Week is a pertinent reminder to farmers to look after their physical and mental well-being in the hope of reducing the number of life-changing and life-ending accidents on our farms.

This year, the main focus of the safety campaign has been to encourage those right across the industry to take action, rather than just simply writing to-do list’s for improvements.

Commenting on the HSE statistics, NFUS Chief Executive Scott Walker on behalf of the Farm Safety Partnership Scotland, said: “One death is disappointing to hear but to hear that 13 people have died on Scotland’s farms and crofts in 2018 is heart-breaking.

“It is concerning that whilst a conscious effort has been made by many to prioritise safety on farms and crofts in recent years, this number continues to increase. The fact that three of the five ATV deaths in the UK happened in Scotland is a stark reminder that everyone using a quad bike should be wearing a helmet and should be abiding by guidance from HSE on their safe use,” he continued.

“Once again this reinforces that everyone whether they live, work or visit a farm or croft must put safety as the number one priority. We fully appreciate the challenges upon those in the industry to get the job done when struggling to make a living, but there is nothing more important than your life,” he urged.

HSE’s figures also reported an increase in the number of deaths due to falls from height, with an 11% increase in the last five years. In 2018/19, 40 fatal injuries to workers were due to falls from a height which increased from 35 in 2017/18.

Managing Director and Owner of Heightsafe, Ken Diable, expressed his support for the farm safety initiative and his concerns over the sector’s poor health and safety record, especially surrounding work at height activities.

“Over the last 35 years the agricultural industry has demonstrated a fatal injury rate of around 20 times the average. Quite simply, farm workers are risking their lives just by going to work, which is completely unacceptable.

“What is particularly heart-breaking are the numbers of preventable deaths on farms that are as a result of a fall from height,” he continued. “From 2013-18 falls from height were the third most common cause of deaths in the agricultural sector, and in 2018 alone, three farm workers lost their lives as a result of working at height unsafely.

“Unfortunately, agriculture is an industry where complacency regarding working at height still pervades.

He pointed to the traditional nature of farming and failing to embrace modern safety measures, as well as resistance from farmers to invest in preventative safety, as key reasons for these incidents happening.

“We believe that a more proactive involvement from the Health and Safety Executive, ensuring the industry are compliant with regulations, will aid in reducing the number of personnel suffering from life changing injuries, as well as the number of fatal accidents occurring on farms,” he concluded.