Agricultural Fatalities Worry British Safety Agency

With an average of one farmworker killed on the job per week for the past 10 years -- with unofficial tallies showing 39 workers died in the latest 12-month period -- Britain's Health and Safety Executive is focused on what it regards as inadequate training and skills among these workers. Agriculture has one of the worst incident records among major U.K. employment sectors, according to the agency, which is equivalent to OSHA in the United States.

HSE wants improvements made. At an agricultural conference that was held July 3-6, HSE board member Judith Donovan reiterated the need to focus on training for the workforce as she presented certificates to students who had successfully completed vocational training. "I congratulate these students who have demonstrated a will to learn and shown that they take pride in doing their work the right way. Their qualifications and experience will help them to make their farms safer and bring about a sustainable change to the industry's record," she said. "Incidents on farms can have devastating effects; casualties are not just workers, but their children, family members, as well as members of the public. The financial costs are also considerable. Work can be disrupted and employees absent, which seriously reduces productivity of the farm. While the industry accounts for only 1.7 percent of the workforce in Great Britain, it accounts for a massive 16 percent of the fatal injuries to workers, so it is vital that there is a focus on training and competencies to better the safety record on farms."

The number of small farms with self-employed owners has increased in recent years, and contracting-out, part-time, and niche market farmers are more numerous. Farming equipment and machinery have changed, as well, placing a greater emphasis on the need for skilled workers.

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