There were 29 fatal injuries to workers in agriculture, compared to the average of 36 for the previous five years. The rate of fatal injury in 2012/13 is 8.8, compared to the five-year average rate of 11.1. While that is a reduction, it is still a fifth of all worker fatalities (148).
These rates are unacceptably high and of course do not take account of either near misses or occupational ill-health in this sector.
Although the data is obscured by under-reporting, according to official sources the ill-health conditions to which workers are exposed include:
* zoonotic infections
* musculoskeletal disorders
* hand-arm vibration , vibration white finger and whole-body vibration
* respiratory disease (especially upper respiratory tract infections from exposure to organic dusts)
In addition, according to data on the HSE website, one child died as a result of an accident on a farm during the same period.
This continuing appalling record certainly doesn't justify the government's health and safety enforcement policy of downgrading agriculture as a sector not worthy of proactive inspections by the HSE nor the recent decision by the HSE Board to withdraw the HSE Approved Code of Practice which was there to protect children on farms.
At a time of massive concern for food safety driven by the demand of the major supermarkets to cut food prices and increase profits this is an industry which needs strong regulation and enforcement. The lack of HSE enforcement in the agriculture and horticultural sectors only reinforces the need for worker roving safety representatives in agriculture.
In addition the government’s decision to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board, and with it the industry's sick pay scheme, will lead to a diminution in agricultural workers' pay and conditions and their welfare in this dangerous industry.
Unite is hugely concerned that current skilled workers and those currently considering a career in agriculture or horticulture will seek employment elsewhere due to unregulated wages and conditions of employment, opening the door for businesses to employ unskilled cheap labour. This we consider a recipe for disaster in terms of both food safety and workers' safety.
.The HSE fatal accident statistics can be found here and a list of fatalities for all industries for 2012-13 here.