Aviva urges farmers to tackle risk as part of Farm Safety Charter

Article date: 6 July 2011

Farmers should focus on reducing workplace accidents in the wake of the industry being branded the worst for health and safety in the UK, says Aviva.

The fact that nearly 750 people – 98 of them members of the public – have died in farmland accidents in the past 16 years was revealed this month in a Parliamentary answer1 by the work and pensions minister, Lord Freud.

Equally, the National Farmers’ Union has recently launched its Farm Safety Charter to help cut the number of fatalities occurring in the sector.

Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer has issued new risk management advice aimed at farm working as part of its Simply Safety campaign – with special guidance for working at height.

Falls from height are the joint second highest cause of death in agriculture2 PDF (814KB) and, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), 60 people have been killed as a result of a fall in the past decade (16% of all fatalities in the sector).

Phil Grace, liability risk manager at Aviva, said: “Falls from height can result in serious and disabling injuries and in the worst case can be fatal. As well as causing pain and distress, accidents at work cost employers time and money. Those planning or supervising work have a responsibility to do all they can to prevent falls. Failure to do so can result in an investigation from the HSE whether or not an accident or injury has resulted.

“Every year there are a number of successful prosecutions brought against agricultural businesses.  In a recent case one farm was fined £8,000 plus £5,000 in costs when an employee suffered a broken collar bone, bruising and concussion after falling twelve feet from a roof3.”

With Aviva’s experience suggesting that incidents most commonly occur when farm employees are carrying out building maintenance or repair, working on vehicles or accessing silos, the insurer is urging those responsible for managing farms to put controls in place to manage the risk of a fall.

Grace continued: “Working at any height carries a risk and employers should undertake a full assessment before work starts to avoid putting employees in unnecessary danger. Jobs should be completed from ground level wherever possible and, if work must be carried out at height, it is essential that workers are properly trained, competent to do the job and appropriately supervised at all times. Planning is key and a few simple steps can significantly reduce the risk of an accident.”

The HSE has put together specific advice for those responsible for supervising farm workers on some of the most common dangers faced by agricultural workers4:

  • Work on roofs: Ensure workers are appropriately trained and never walk on the purlins or stand on fragile fibre cement roofs and take steps to prevent falls from ladders or crawling boards. Check the weather forecast before starting work since high winds have been known to cause accidents.
  • Work on vehicles: Take particular care when climbing down from vehicles – use the steps and handholds and never jump down. Check that access to the high parts of the machine is well-designed when choosing which vehicle to buy so that maintenance work can be carried out safely. Ensure that well-fitting, slip-resistant safety footwear is worn at all times.
  • Stacking bales: Plan carefully when loading bales on to trailers. Use end racks or hay ladders and ensure loads are built to bind themselves. Keep stackers away from the side and use sound bales for all edges. Make sure loads are well-secured and that no one rides on top of them.
  • Access: Never use pallets, potato crates or other makeshift equipment as a means of gaining access to high places.  Similarly the buckets of JCBs and telehandlers are not a safe means of access for working at height. Wherever possible, use purpose made work platforms rather than ladders. If using scaffold, use competent workers to erect it.  Ladders can be used if there is no alternative, but make sure that they are well-secured and/or footed, resting on level and firm ground and not leaning against fragile surfaces.

Download the Simply Safety factsheet PDF (78KB)                                                       


If you are a journalist and would like further information, please contact:

Sally Richards : Aviva Press Office 
01603 684225 / 07789 270677 

Jon Clements : Staniforth 
0161 919 8022 / 07872 118364 

1 The Guardian.co.uk 13 June 2011, "Agriculture has poorest safety record of any industry, official figures say"

2 http://www.hse.gov.uk/agriculture/pdf/fatal0910.pdf PDF (814KB)

3 http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/news/Farm-company-fined-worker-67-fell-roof/article-3240696-detail/article.html


Notes to editors:  

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide more than 53 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with 19 million customers and one in three households has a relationship with us. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market. Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top 10 most valuable brands and Aviva plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at www.aviva.com/2010cr.

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at www.aviva.co.uk/street-to-school.

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* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2009.
** at 31 December 2010.

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