U.K. Campaign Works to Make Farming Safer

To help prevent farm worker deaths and highlight farming as one of the most dangerous ways to make a living in Britain, the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently launched a campaign asking farmers to make one simple promise: Come home safe.

“Make the promise. Come Home Safe” was introduced Jan. 2 and targets farmers and their families. The campaign uses individual stories behind the statistics and the devastation caused to bereaved families.

“This summarizes recent fatal accidents and is designed to help farmers avoid making the same mistakes,” said Judith Donovan, non-executive HSE Board member and agriculture champion. “HSE is mounting this campaign because on average over 45 deaths, year after year, occur on British farms. We would like to highlight that this is a partnership to keep farmers safe, not HSE dictating the terms.”

During January 2009, HSE will send "promise packs" to approximately 70,000 British farmers. The pack includes a Promise Knot, a symbolic knot of farm baling twine, which can be used as a visual reminder of the pledge to come home safe, as well as a poster outlining detailed information. Farmers can send in a form contained within the pack or request a new booklet, “How Lives Are Lost on British Farms.”

The Risks

In 2007/2008, there were 39 worker deaths on farms. Less than 1.5 percent of the working population is employed in agriculture, yet the sector is responsible for between 15 and 20 percent of fatalities to workers each year. Two-thirds of all deaths in farming are self-employed farmers. Within this group, older farmers are the most at risk, accounting for over half of the deaths to the self-employed.

Over the last 10 years, deaths on farms have been caused by the same activities. Extra care must be taken when working with vehicles and machinery, on roofs and with livestock, and this campaign aims to remind farmers of how they can reduce the risks.

The three main causes of deaths to agriculture workers in the last 10 years were:

  • Transport – 24 percent
  • Falls from height, especially roofs – 17 percent
  • Being struck by moving or falling objects – 15 percent
“Any death is a death too many, yet all too frequently someone dies in a farm accident. These accidents destroy lives, whole families and often farm businesses,” said Jim McLaren, President of NFU Scotland, the country’s leading agriculture organization. “This campaign is of massive importance to the farming industry. It will be a success if even one farmer thinks about a risk and does something differently, and is still here with his or her family as a result. We hope everyone in rural areas and those involved in farming get to know about the campaign, talk about it and spread the message. Do not take risks with your life and your family’s future. Come home safe.”
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