Winter is knocking on our farm gates and as the days get shorter, the weather colder and wetter, the risk of an accident on the farm increases as well. It is therefore once again worth reminding our customers and members that agriculture by metric is one of the most, if not the most, dangerous industry to work in within the UK and sadly the fatality statistics are there to prove it.
Wales recorded three fatalities in 2021/2022 according to Health and Safety Executive figures, with 25 people killed in total across Great Britain.
Out of those 25 people recorded in these official statistics two people were killed in incidents involving livestock. But we have known our livestock for years, we know what we’re doing. Right?
Handling cattle always involves a risk of injury from crushing, kicking, butting or goring. The risk is increased if the work involves animals that have not been handled frequently, such as those from hills or moorland, sucklers or newly calved cattle. Certain jobs, such as veterinary work or TB testing, may increase the risk further.
Advice from the Health and Safety Executive stresses that “proper handling systems, trained and competent staff, and a rigorous culling policy can help make sure cattle handling can be carried out in relative safety”, whereas attempting to carry out stock tasks on unrestrained cattle or with makeshift equipment is particularly hazardous.
However, contrary to what has previously been claimed by officials who seem never to have been within 100 yards of a cow, it is never possible to fully eliminate the risk of handling cattle. We must therefore never underestimate the risk, even with good precautions in place.
Familiarity with individual cattle can lead to complacency, especially when handling bulls, and a number of accidents, some fatal, happen every year because we fail to treat bulls with respect. Let’s not forget that a playful bull can kill you just as easily as an angry one.
Whichever way you look at it, we have serious Health and Safety challenges on our farms: Over the last 20 years, other industries such as construction and quarrying have greatly improved their safety records, while farming has not, and it is frightening that you are still six times more likely to be killed on a farm than you would on a building site.
Of course, the goal is always to implement good risk management practices and protocols to reduce accidents happening on farms in the first place. However, the uncomfortable truth is that accidents do happen, making it important for farming businesses to make sure they can evidence their risk management practices. We therefore urge you to be cautious on farm and follow the right procedures and have a chat with us about any insurance concerns you might have in respect of your farm business.