The Rise and Falls of Farm Safety

Date published: 26 July 2017

HSENI annual workplace fatality statistics show signs of behavioural change but there is still a need to reduce the excessively high rate of accidents in the industry. Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health & Safety Executive, Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and Health & Safety Authority, Ireland once again join forces to drive the initiative. Today's theme - Falls

Contrary to the popular image of fresh air and peaceful surroundings, a farm is not a hazard-free work setting. Every year, thousands of farm workers are injured and too many die in farming accidents. In fact, despite the promising news that there is some behavioural change occurring in the industry, agriculture continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.

Farming carries an above-average risk of falling accidents. Farming, forestry and horticulture employ about 1% of the national workforce but the risk of falling from heights or being struck by a falling object account for nearly 30% of all farming fatalities, which only demonstrates that ‘Falls’ must remain high on the list of farming risks to be managed.


According to Barclay Bell, President of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and NI Farm Safety Partnership member: “Any fall from height can lead to long term injuries and make it difficult to keep on farming. Most accidents of this type happen either because the work is not properly planned, the risks are not recognised, proper precautions are not taken, or the equipment used is either defective, not appropriate, or used incorrectly. According to Voice of the Farm research carried out this year half of all farmers claim to take risks. I am sure many believe it will ‘only take a few minutes’, and take risks in the hope that simply being very careful will be enough.”


Whilst working at heights is always a risky business, there are several things which can be done to minimise those risks. The following is a checklist to help prevent falls from heights:

● Have I thought about the best way to get up to the job?

● Can I use a cherry-picker or a materials handler (including a fork lift)?

● Do I have a suitable cage or platform attached to the machine?

● Have I done everything I can to avoid using a ladder?

● Is the ladder in good condition, rungs and stiles sound?

● Is it long enough, reaches to at least 0.9m above the stepping off point?

● Can it be tied or footed?

● Is the roof material fragile eg asbestos cement sheet?

● Have I got crawling boards or staging to cover the asbestos cement by   bridging the joists?

● Can I avoid stepping on the roof-lights?

Remember – you can either fall off or through the roof of a farm building!

“It is human nature to think ‘it won't happen to me,’ but unfortunately it can, especially if we continue to take risks, whether major or minor.” says Stephanie Berkeley form the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind Farm Safety Week.

“Taking preventative, proactive measures is one of the best things we can do for our farm and workers. Most preventative practices are common sense. Tragically, most accidents are caused by simple factors such as habit, haste, fatigue, and improperly maintained machinery. This week, we hope that by hearing from families about their experiences, we can persuade farmers of all ages that this week, and every week, farm safety is a lifestyle, not a slogan.”

For more information on Farm Safety Week visit or follow @yellowwelliesUK on Twitter/Facebook using the hashtag #FarmSafetyWeek

Notes to editors: 

1. For more information on the Farm Safety Partnership please contact HSENI on 0800 0320 121 or visit the FSP webpage: The Farm Safety Partnership  

2. Farm Safety Week 2017 is supported by the Farm Safety Foundation, Farm Safety Partnerships, the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority, Ireland.

3. The Campaign aims to highlight the serious dangers posed by farms and offers themed practical advice and guidance for farmers. This year Farm Safety Week reminds farmers that farm safety is a lifestyle not a slogan.

4. Farm Safety Week started in 2013 and struck a chord with the farming community with the initiative being recognised by 56% of the farming community according to recent Voice of the Farmer research*. It has grown to include England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; five nations with a single purpose; to reduce death and serious injuries in agriculture. *Voice of the Farmer interviewed a sample of 1,800 farmers across the UK in April 2017, matched to UK profile of all farms by country and farm size.

5. The Farm Safety Partnership comprises the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), NFU Mutual (NFUM), the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers Association (NIAPA). It is tasked with assisting Northern Ireland’s farming community to work safely and tackle the problem of work-related fatalities and injuries on farms.

6. The Farm Safety Partnership’s ongoing ‘Stop and Think SAFE’ farm safety campaign focuses on the four main causes of death and injury on our farms – slurry, animals, falls and equipment (SAFE).

7. The Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, sponsored by the Department for the Economy (DfE).

8. HSENI is the lead body responsible for the promotion and enforcement of health and safety at work standards in Northern Ireland

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