Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will visit farms across Great Britain from this week to check compliance with legal safety requirements.

The national regulator for workplace health and safety said farmers must change their attitudes towards safety.

HSE inspectors will visit 440 farms across England, Scotland and Wales as part of a “push to change the culture” of the agricultural industry.

The visits will take place from this week up until April 2024, and will focus on the main causes of death in farming, which are:

  • Working with cattle;
  • Operating and maintaining vehicles;
  • Falls from height.

Inspectors will also look at risks to members of the public, which often means the management of cattle around public rights of way, as well as child safety on the farm.

HSE inspector Kathy Gostick said:

“We will not only be checking farmers’ knowledge of risk but also making sure they understand their responsibility to themselves and others.

“We will look at actions they have taken to control these risks and comply with the law.”

Farm deaths

The HSE reported that people on farms are 21 times more likely to be killed in a workplace accident than other sectors.

In total, there have been 161 deaths on Britain’s farms over the last five years – an average of 26 people each year. This includes members of the public and children.

Although, the number of deaths in the agricultural sector has fallen by around half since the early 1980s, the rate of fatalities, which is based on the number of people at work in the sector, has remained “stubbornly high”, much higher than comparable industries, the HSE said.

“There are simply too many tragedies in farming and it is time for that to change,” Gostick said.

“We are committed to making workplaces safer and healthier and that includes agriculture – we will do this by highlighting the risks, providing advice and guidance, and by holding employers to account for their actions.

“This means changing attitudes towards safety – it is the only way we will reduce the numbers of people being injured or killed.”

Gostick said the upcoming inspections will help “drive home the message” that the only way the numbers of those being injured or killed will change is if behaviour is changed.