Farm Safety Partnership sounds alarm over HSE inspections ending

01 May 2024

David Exwood stood in front of a tractor

The FSP (Farm Safety Partnership) has raised serious concerns over the recent decision by the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) to halt farm safety inspections, fearing it will pose significant risks to the health and safety of agricultural workers in the farming sector.

In 2022, HSE launched its new strategy, Protecting People and Places, which will run until 2032.

As part of this strategy, HSE recently announced to the FSP that it would no longer be running ACE (agricultural compliance event) inspections once the current season finishes at the end of spring 2024.

Decision is ‘deeply troubling’

Speaking for the first time as chair of the Farm Safety Partnership, NFU Deputy President David Exwood warned “we cannot afford to compromise on the safety of our farmers, farm workers, or those living on or visiting farms”.

“The decision to halt inspections is deeply troubling and we urge the government and HSE to reconsider and continue to work collaboratively with farmers to help ensure they are compliant.

“We simply must prioritise the wellbeing of the nation’s farmers and growers.”

What is the Farm Safety Partnership?

The Farm Safety Partnership is a collaboration of organisations with a responsibility to show industry leadership by promoting safe systems of work within all sectors of agriculture.

Find out more at

The HSE is switching to a focus on occupational health issues rather than preventative general health and safety inspections. It will continue to provide investigative inspections in response to serious incidents such as on-farm accidents or deaths.

The HSE advised that despite efforts over several decades, there has not been a significant reduction in the fatality rate for agriculture. HSE advised the reduction in actual numbers of fatal injuries have been attributed to a reduction in the numbers working in the industry since the 1980s.

Last month saw the first on-farm fatality for the HSE’s new recording year. The notification stated that ‘a worker was trapped and killed by agricultural machinery’.

The HSE issued guidance on machinery maintenance, adding that this ‘is a significant cause of death and serious injury on farms’.

Changing the culture of farm safety

NFU Deputy President David Exwood said the lack of public awareness surrounding this decision “raises serious questions about their [HSE’s] prioritisation of safety within the farming sector”.

“While the HSE assures us that investigative inspections will continue in response to serious incidents, the lack of all regular inspections, training and events leaves a notable gap in proactive and preventative safety measures that could prevent accidents and save lives,” he said.

“Agriculture has one of the highest rates of fatalities and serious injuries in any workplace and to help bring this number down, as a sector we need to work on changing the culture of farm safety. This decision by HSE completely goes against that goal.

“We are calling on Defra and the Department for Work and Pensions to recognise the critical safety implications of this decision, urgently review the potential impacts and establish a clear plan to prioritise the safety of those in the sector.

“The FSP is committed to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of agricultural workers. We will be engaging in conversations with the government and the wider industry to support the development and implementation of policies and practices that safeguard the livelihoods of those working in agriculture.”

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