NEW fatality figures show that five people were killed on Scottish farms in the last 12 months.

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive have revealed that in 2016/17, agriculture was once again the sector with the highest rate of fatal injury, around 18 times higher than the All Industry rate.

In total 30 people were killed on British farms over the past year – making agriculture the riskiest industry to work in. The main causes of death were ‘struck by vehicles’ (30%), ‘trapped by something collapsing’ (20%), ‘struck by an object’ (17%), ‘contact with electricity’ (10%), ‘falling from a height’ (7%), and ‘injured by an animal’ (7%).

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Speaking from Scotland-based farm insurance specialist Lycetts, William Barne said: “It is worrying that agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries, with the high fatality rate far-exceeding other sectors.

“HSE’s research shows that vehicle-related activities consistently lead to more deaths than any other category, and that half of the workers killed by something collapsing were taking part in activities involving vehicles and machinery.

“So, while some of these deaths have been the result of freak accidents, many could have been prevented," he suggested. "Although this is a sad fact, this gives us hope that, with better practice on farms and safer use of machinery, incidents like this could become rarer."

Agriculture currently has a 7.61 fatal injury rate per 100,000 workers – six times that of the construction sector.

Whilst 27 of the past year’s deaths involved workers, three were members of the public. The age of the victims also varied hugely, with the youngest being three and the oldest 80. The youngest worker to be killed was 18.

However, nearly half of the workers killed in agriculture were over 65 – 13 out of 27 deaths – and more than 85% of workers killed were over the age of 45.

Mr Barne said: “There is a danger that farmers who work for themselves harbour a perception that they do not need to carry out the necessary risk assessments or abide by the health and safety regulations, as they don’t have any employees.

“It may also be a case of farmers, due to economic constraints, are having to manage difficult and labour-heavy jobs by themselves or with limited resources – and are therefore putting themselves at increased risk."

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk