Nature red in tooth and claw. A pleasant day out in the countryside can so easily turn very unpleasant indeed. Recently, a man in his early 60s was attacked and fatally wounded by a bull while walking on a public right of way through a Nottinghamshire farm.
Just days later comes the tragic news of an 11-year old boy who was killed when he was struck by a tractor at a farm near Leeds. However, on this occasion the fatal injuries were inflicted - not by beast but by man - arrested under suspicion of driving his tractor while under the influence of alcohol.
Accidents in the agricultural industry and the corresponding impact upon related personal injury claims have been consistently high. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have previously stated that “Agriculture has one of the worst fatal accident and occupational ill-health records of any major employment sector – including construction.” According to HSE, fewer than 1.5 per cent of the working population are employed in agriculture yet the sector is responsible for between 15 per cent and 20 per cent of employee fatalities each year.
Latest HSE figures once again point to the workplace fatality record in Agriculture as third highest following the Services and Construction sector. Between 2011/12, a total of 173 fatalities were reported compared to the Apr/Dec 2012 figure of 192 fatalities – arise of 11 per cent.
Between 1999 and 2009, a total of 436 fatal injuries were caused by accidents in agricultural workplaces, more than a quarter caused by moving vehicles and nearly 1 in 5 falling from height plus a similar number hit by moving objects.
Falls from height are repeatedly reported and are one of the most common causes of death in agriculture. Typical examples include falling from farm building roofs or storage containers and clothing, limbs or hair becoming caught in large unguarded moving machinery.
Only around 1 in 10 deaths were as a result of livestock or contact with machinery. In the latter category, HSE list common mechanical hazards, including crushing, entanglement, drawing-in, shearing, cutting or severing, friction or abrasion.
Of the 436 people killed over the ten year period, more than half (245 ) were self-employed, around a third (140) were employees and slightly over 1 in ten ( 51) were members of the public.
More unsettling is the lack of real figures for non-fatal injury due to serious under-reporting despite being one of the highest sector rates. HSE estimate that in 2009/10, there were just over 242 major injuries per 100,000 employees in agriculture compared to just over 203 in 2008/091. The figures are double the combined industry rate total of just over 101 per 100,000.
Between 2006 and 2012, HSE prosecutions and enforcement notices have increased over the last six years and the average fine per offence has also risen by ten times, ranging from £ 20,000 or more to £ 60,000 or more.