Why life on the farm is so dangerous

Why life on the farm is so dangerous

Figures released recently by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that the agriculture industry is the second most dangerous sector in the UK.

The statistics show that from April 2010 to March 2011 there were 34 deaths relating to the agriculture industry. Only the construction industry (50 deaths) had a higher number of work-related fatalities.

Claims Direct can help you make a personal injury claim if you have suffered an accident at work through no fault of your own. Making a claim can help prevent an accident happening to a colleague. Could looking at HSE list of fatal agricultural accidents establish patterns which make the industry safer? 

The fatality rate of agricultural workers suffering accidents is 8 deaths per 1,000 workers – only the waste and recycling industry (8.7) has a worse rate.

Commenting on the figures, HSE board member Sandy Blair said: “Agriculture is as much a community as it is an industry, which makes these deaths all the more devastating.”

According to the data, Robert McAlister was the youngest person to die in an agricultural-related accident. Robert was just nine when he fell from his quad bike while riding on his parents’ farm in the Isle of Bute, Argyll.

Victor Elliot, 87, is the oldest person on the list; the farmer died after his tractor rolled over him.

There were 13 deaths involving vehicles in 2010/2011 – making it the most common type of agricultural death.

Being struck by falling material and objects accounted for nine deaths. Simon Whittaker was one of the people who died this way. The 40-year-old was working on Bradford Manor Farm in North Devon in April 2011 when a heavy bale of hay fell on top of him as it slipped from the clutches of his JCB digger. 

Fatalities involving falling are also common – eight occurred in the year; several of these tragic accidents involving falling from vehicles.


Six of the year’s deaths were caused by cattle – a statistic which highlights the danger of working with, or coming too close to, bulls and cows. Father-of-two Peter Coutts died in April 2010 while he was helping a farmer move bullocks from one field to another near Penrith in Cumbria. The herd of cattle suddenly became spooked and charged at 53-year-old Mr Coutts who fell over, hitting his head and suffering fatal injuries. 

Just three months later, part-time farmer Peter Whiting, 47, was trampled to death by a herd of cows near Ely in Cambridgeshire.

Even experienced farmers are at danger from bulls. This is illustrated by the case of Ian Rook, 58, from Clanfield, near Hampshire, who died after being charged by a bull while he attempted to move the animal between two groups of cattle.

Some comfort can be drawn from the fact that the HSE figures show that the rate of fatal injury in the sector has started to fall (from an average of 9.6 deaths per 100,000 workers over the past five years to a rate of 8 per 1,000 in 2010/2011).

HSE board member Sally Blair welcomed this news but said: “We must not lose sight of the fact that so many workers failed to come home safely last year.”