The HSE recently published details on annual fatality statistics and would there be any surprises?

To cut to the chase – not really!

Is the data depressing?


It is primarily us safety geeks and a few doom & gloom safety dinosaurs that actually read this stuff in detail but for me I would love to see an addition to the report outlining what changes can we expect on the back of this publication.

Firstly, a very briefly summary of what I gleaned:

  • Agriculture / Forestry / Fishing, Construction the Waste Management top the league for killer industries.
  • Being self-employed in agriculture seems to be the most hazardous occupation
  • Health factors such as stress, anxiety and depression are also major issues that need to be addressed.
  • It is still likely that we have huge levels of under-reporting
  • The HSE are conducting fewer inspections but generating more cash under FFI (Fee for Intervention – if you are found to be breaking the law then they can charge for every minute taken to investigate and prosecute you).
  • The UK still looks very good when graphed against the rest of the world!

Focusing much closer to home and specifically on the Farming Industry these are the headlines that make difficult reading:

  • The average number of agricultural deaths in Scotland has been higher than in any other part of Britain over the past five years
  • Nearly half (48%) of the agricultural workers killed in Britain were over 65 and almost twice as many self-employed people were killed as employees.


This past weekend in particular was horrendous:

  • On Saturday an Aberdeenshire contractor died in an accident involving a tractor, 5 years after his brother died in an accident involving a combine harvester at the same family farm in Turriff.


  • On Sunday a well-known local young man died in a quad bike accident on a farm near Kelso.


Things need to change:

The culture among the older generation in particular is woefully out of touch with what is acceptable these days. They are little better than those who shoved kids up chimneys in Victorian times.  They all know the score, they have some first-class farming publications that do their bit to report on this stuff but if they are not willing to change then they should be made change their ways.

Sorry, I don’t mean to be harsh but please appreciate this also my industry, a huge part of our business and the stats are quite frankly sickening.  Although there are many responsible farmers out there, that data speaks for itself. We are not good enough at risk management and it needs to change.


We need to engage the younger generation, make safety a valued, integrated component in both training and farm management, not a necessary evil that is commonly bolted onto the syllabus.

All of the Stakeholders need to play their part, including the insurers and the families involved. It’s interesting when you speak to a farmers’ wife, she often knows the score and her highly tuned maternal instinct serves as a pretty good hazard radar. Sadly, her message, like the ones in farming mags, the intranet / social media, the ones buried in the HSE guidance just don’t seem to be hitting the target.

Lastly, I know the regulators (the HSE) are under-resourced but this also needs to change. I am a firm believer in the ‘carrot is more powerful than the stick’ but there are only so many carrots you can dangle in front of the noses of those too blind to see.