The Risk of Workplace Accidents in Agriculture

Wed 26th Jun 2024

This year, the theme of APIL’s Injury Awareness Week is the impact of avoidable workplace accidents. APIL, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers, host this week every year to highlight different causes of personal injury.

Agriculture has the worst rate of workers receiving fatal injuries of all the main industry sectors in the UK. In 2023, they accounted for 18% of all workplace fatalities, despite employing 1% of the population.

Farming is an inherently hazardous industry to work in. Health and Safety Executive (HSE) figures show that in the 12 months leading to March 2023, 27 lives were lost on British farms. This includes both workers and non-employees who experienced injury or fatality. Surrounded by dangerous machinery, vehicles, chemicals, livestock and other hazards—it is easy to understand why.

Heather Kearton-Gee, Chartered Legal Executive in Coodes’ Personal Injury team, explores the risks and explains what employers in agriculture can do to safeguard against accidents.

Common causes of workplace accidents

Over the last decade, almost one person a week has been killed as a result of working in agriculture. Everybody deserves to be safe at work and the necessary precautions should be taken to protect workers from harm. This also extends to those non-employees such as family members. Sadly, the youngest person killed as a result of agriculture-related activities was a farmer’s 3-year-old child.

In the year 2022/23, being killed by an animal was the leading cause of fatality on UK farms. Overall, the most common cause of death is being struck by a moving vehicle. Other leading causes are falling from a height, being struck by an object or contact with machinery.

Proper health and safety practices are crucial to avoiding workplace accidents and should be considered an essential part of operations. This is especially so in agricultural environments where the risk is higher and more pertinent.

Effects of workplace accidents on workers and their families

Fatal workplace accidents can have a devastating effect on workers and their families. Where the injuries are serious enough, they can result in permanent disability or premature death. These life-altering scenarios can happen in an instant and change the dynamic of a worker’s relationships and family life.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 place duties on companies and individuals to make sure that adequate provision is made for health and safety at places of work.

Where these duties have not been met and injury or fatality has occurred, you may be able to claim personal injury compensation. While it will never replace quality of life or your loved ones, it can go towards compensating for any required care as a result of an injury or to support the financial needs of family and partners should the worst happen.

Overall, it is an important principle that all workers, regardless of industry, should feel confident that they can return home from work safe and sound. The same should go for the family and friends of those working on farms too.

What can employers in agriculture do?

Less than half of the serious injuries that occur as a result of working in agriculture are reported. The HSE estimates that up to 10,000 agriculture-related industries are unreported every year.

Employers in agriculture should take steps to ensure that they comply with the law and keep their workforce, as well as members of the public, safe. HSE recommends that employers formulate a policy for them and their employees to stick to. This should set out individual responsibilities, procedures and systems which should be communicated to everyone. The policy should be reviewed at regular intervals and updated when necessary to avoid workplace accidents.

Moreover, employers should ensure that full and adequate training is provided on an ongoing basis. Employees should only be asked to carry out the tasks that they have been trained to do. A risk assessment should be carried out at the workplace, for different tasks, and precautions should be taken in response.

Farmers, and those working in agriculture, are often self-employed and used to lone working. This can result in significant risk as they may take on tasks that they are not trained to do. Similarly, they may try to use machinery alone that is more suited for multiple operators.

For this reason, it is vitally important to be familiar with operating instructions and safety advice when working. Assurances should also be in place to ensure that they have help available at all times should something go wrong.

Workplace accidents in agriculture  

Avoiding accidents at work can save a huge amount of distress, pain and heartache for workers and their families. However, should the worst happen, seeking personal injury compensation can help work towards justice and closure.

Health and safety should always be the most important policy to get right in any workplace no matter the industry. That is why at Coodes we are supporting APIL’s Injury Awareness Week.

If you are seeking compensation for a personal injury in the workplace, or you are an employer looking to ensure you’re complying with employment law, Coodes can help. Contact Heather Kearton-Gee, Chartered Legal Executive in the Personal Injury team via email or by calling 01326 213036. For further enquiries, fill in our online contact form so you can be directed to the most appropriate member of the team.

Wed 26th Jun 2024

Heather Kearton-Gee

Chartered Legal Executive

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