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Agricultural workplace deaths increased significantly over past year, Unite warns

AGRICULTURAL workplace deaths have seen a steep increase over the past year, Unite warned today. 

There were a total of 20 deaths in the sector between April 2019 and April 2020, but, according to the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) fatality list for 2020-2021, by the third week of February there had already been 33 deaths: an increase of 61 per cent.

There are likely to have been further fatalities before the end of the reporting year on April 1, Unite said.

The highest causes of deaths were contact with cattle — (11, including five members of the public) — and deaths involving vehicles (10).

Even before the latest figures emerged, agriculture was considered to be the most dangerous sector in the country, with fatality rates 18 times the national workplace average.

Unite, which published its analysis of the figures today on the eve of Workers’ Memorial Day, called for the HSE, ministers and bosses to take urgent action.

The union is demanding an increase in inspections and prosecutions by the HSE, which has been hit by a decade of government cuts, and the creation of a system of accredited roving safety reps to improve safety.

An effective information campaign is also urgently needed, warning the public of the risks animals can pose, Unite said.

Unite national officer for agriculture Bev Clarkson said: “[This] increase [in deaths] is deeply disturbing and must not be ignored.

“The high number of fatalities demonstrates that far too many employers are willing to cut corners.

“Only the genuine fear of prosecution will drag the worst employers into line.”

A HSE spokesperson said: “HSE continues to follow its published intervention strategy and work with the industry to drive improvements in management of risk.

“Inspection, investigation work and enforcement activities continue.”

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