HSE fatality stats – 'the time is now to make changes'

12 July 2023

An image of David Exwood on a farm with cows in the background

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) has published its work-related fatality figures for 2022/23 with UK agriculture remaining the most dangerous industry.

“The time to change is now” – that was the message from NFU Vice President David Exwood after updated figures for fatal accidents in British agriculture were published by the HSE.

They showed that 21 people lost their lives on farms in the year to April 2023, including four members of the public.

While the numbers were down on 2021/22, when 23 deaths were recorded, and on the five-year average of 26, agriculture continues to have the worst rate of fatal injuries across the main industrial sectors, some 21 times higher than the all-industries average.

The second most dangerous profession was construction, with a rate four times the average.

Livestock incidents increase

Leading causes of on-farm deaths included falls from height (four), contact with machinery (four) and being struck by falling or collapsing objects (three), – all regular features in previous years’ statistics. However, eight deaths involved livestock – six more than 2021-22 and including all four incidents involving members of the public.

See: Public and livestock safety – 6 steps to consider

The HSE has been notified of 16 further deaths on farms in England since 1 April, in the worst start to a recording period in several years.

“These statistics make for very difficult reading,” said David.

Farm businesses are under enormous pressure, but nothing will add more to that than a serious or fatal accident.”

NFU Vice President David Exwood

“They all represent a life lost in our industry, a colleague, friend or family member. It is deeply frustrating that we have the highest rate of fatal injury when we know where the risks lie and what actions we should be taking.

“Farm businesses are under enormous pressure, but nothing will add more to that than a serious or fatal accident.

"We all can and should make the simple, cost-effective changes needed to look after ourselves and our loved ones. Actions we can take include using the Safe Stop procedure when getting out of a machine, wearing a helmet on an ATV, working safely at height and planning an escape route when working in livestock fields. The time to make these changes is now; one accident is one too many.” 

While the figures demonstrated an all-too-familiar trend towards disproportionate numbers of deaths in older age groups, those aged 40 to 64 were involved in 11 of the fatal farming accidents in 2022-23, with over 65s, who have proved most at risk in previous years, accounting for eight.

Overall, 135 people died in work-related incidents across British industries in the 12 months to April 2023.

The NFU is an active member of the Farm Safety Partnership and as such, regularly promotes messaging around key areas of farm safety that continue to be relevant in year-on-year fatalities:

  • Working at height
  • Livestock
  • Transport and machinery safety

Farm Safety Week

This Farm Safety Week the NFU is launching a campaign to encourage people in the industry to share and promote good practices using the universal theme of 'Take 5 to Stay Alive' and #NFUThinkSafe.

The NFU also sits on AIC working groups and the AIAC board, as well as working with the HSE to improve the understanding of stress and mental wellbeing in the industry and how it can be improved.

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