SADLY, it will come as no surprise to anyone in or associated with agriculture that we work in one of the most dangerous industries, writes FUW president Glyn Roberts.

The industry often sees farmers and farm workers working in solitude, in challenging weather conditions and often working against the clock to save a life or bring a new one into the world.

Time and time again we hear about fatalities and life-changing injuries caused by accidents in or around the farm, despite stringent health and safety policies and guidance which is set out clearly to minimise risks in our everyday working lives.

However, these accidents still happen, so what can we do to keep ourselves and our workforce safe?

First of all, we need to acknowledge that the well-documented risks on farms could be easily managed, however all too often farmers and farm workers put themselves in situations where one slip can have life changing or even fatal consequences.

The main areas highlighted by the Health & Safety Executive relate to accidents caused by machinery - be that from crushing, entanglement, impact, severing or trapping type scenarios with misadventure caused by electricity, falls and immersion in closed-in spaces such as silos, milk vats and manure pits not far behind.

Figures published in the Health and Safety Executive's report 'Fatal injuries in agriculture, forestry and fishing in Great Britain 2020/21' show 41 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities during the year.

There are several factors that can also contribute to the high rates of mortality and injuries, one of them being age.

Statistics show that nearly half of the agricultural workers killed in accidents involving transport such as overturning vehicles or being struck by moving vehicles were over 60.

At this time of year, many seasonal jobs are now being filled again and therefore it’s also vital that employers offer the same protections to those supporting the gig economy such as agency and temporary workers.

Figures show that workers are as likely to have an accident in the first six months at a workplace as they are during the whole of the rest of their working life.

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Working alongside the Wales Farm Safety Partnership, the emphasis is on convincing farmers in Wales that we have serious Health and Safety challenges on our farms and also to provide advice and guidance in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive in order to improve the situation and save lives on our farms.

The ‘On Farm Health and Safety Charter for Wales' aims to help farmers “work together to make farming safer” by raising awareness and reducing the risk of harm faced by those in the industry. 

We all have a responsibility for not only our own safety, but that of our workforce, our families and that of any visitors to our property.

By following the guidance, not taking risks or short-cuts and by not putting anyone in a situation where one mistake can have life-changing or even fatal consequences, we can all play our part in changing the statistics.

Over the last 20 years, other industries such as construction and quarrying have greatly improved their safety records while farming has not, and you are now six times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would on a building site.

So please, don’t become a farm fatality statistic this year.

Stay alert, stay aware and stay safe.