SCOTLAND HAS seen a dramatic drop in on-farm fatalities in the last 12 months, suggesting a clear shift in the attitudes of farmers and crofters towards health and safety.

According to newly released figures by the Health and Safety Executive, the number of farm deaths in Scotland dropped from 13 to two, between the period April 2019 to March 2020.

In the UK as a whole, 21 people were killed – 18 less than the previous year – making it the lowest number of deaths in the past five years.

However the Farm Safety Foundation has urged farmers not to become complacent, highlighting that three children were killed on UK farms last month.

The latest figures were published to coincide with Farm Safety Week (which began Monday, July 20) which saw many organisations such as the FSF, NFU Scotland, RSABI and SAYFC promote the importance of good health and safety practice on farm and warn of the dangers of the profession.

Looking at the Scottish statistics, FSF manager Stephanie Berkeley told The SF: "Although figures have dropped considerably there is still nothing to celebrate as these two deaths have affected two families. We can’t become complacent and even if a farmer says ‘I have never had an accident in 40 years’ – this could be down to luck and luck can run out. This is about farming smarter!"

Ms Berkeley warned that without the usual social breaks in the agricultural calendar, farmers could be carrying a lot more stress and could be more likely to put themselves at risk.

"Without events like the Royal Highland Show this year, farmers have gone from lambing to calving to silaging to harvest and straight on into winter. In the next couple of weeks, we will begin to see the pressure of this build and Brexit is now back on the table, with uncertainty only adding to their list of bothers. If you get behind the wheel of a tractor when you are struggling, then you are more dangerous than a machine."

Since Scotland recorded 13 farm fatalities in the previous reporting year, NFU Scotland has been working hard to drive these figures down by increasing their communications around good health and safety practice to their members and the wider industry.

NFUS vice president Charlie Adam welcomed the improvement, but added: “Two deaths are still two too many and it shows that there is still plenty of work to be done. These two incidents aren’t just figures on a report – these are two separate farming families who will be grieving and should be treated as such.

“The work that we do with the FSF, and other stakeholders, during Farm Safety Week is vitally important to spread the message of good health and safety on farm but it cannot be just for the one week a year. Farmers and crofters need to buy into these new farming methods and technologies year-round, not just for these five days,” he urged.