Health & Safety in Agriculture

The most recent statistics by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) shows that agriculture, forestry and fishing is the deadliest industry in the UK. For those working in the rural sector, there are a multitude of risks that jeopardise themselves, their employees and members of the public.

From collisions with cattle, vehicles and machinery to falls from height, slips and trips and the dangers of lone working, farmers must be wary. Penalties imposed by the HSE include significant fines and imprisonment.

Facts & Figures

  • 147 workers killed in 2018/19, 39 of which were in agriculture, forestry and farming.
  • By comparison, 30 fatalities in construction, 26 in manufacturing, 16 in transport and storage.
  • More than 70 fatal incidents to agricultural workers in the last two years.
  • In 2018/19, there were 39 fatalities in rural sector. 19 were self-employed, 13 were employees and 7 were members of the public.

HSE fees and penalties

If the HSE visits farmers premises, planned or unplanned, and determines that they are in breach of health and safety regulations, HSE will charge a fee for intervention (FFI). This is an hourly rate of £154 and is charged for the time it takes to identify the breach and to act on it. In complex cases, this could run into thousands of pounds in fines.

In Scotland the current HSE practice upon discovering a material breach is to send two representatives as part of the investigation. Both are chargeable with the same FFI hourly rate as in England.

If negligence results in serious injury or fatality, the repercussions can be tenfold. In 2004, a temporary gamekeeper who was not provided with a mobile phone died following an accident on an ATV.

The trustees admitted their negligence in not providing a way to raise the alarm and did not conduct a risk assessment. They were fined £3,000.

Of course, as well as HSE fees, rural workers could potentially face criminal sentences for their actions or omissions, including gross negligence manslaughter.

How to avoid workplace incidents

  • Risk assessments help highlight potential risks and indicate ways to avoid them. This is especially essential where lone working is undertaken.
  • Safety and Health Awareness Days (SHADs) are offered by the HSE throughout the year and give practical ways to protect from everyday hazards.
  • The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) work with the HSE to offer guidelines on all aspects of farming and the rural sector.
  • The HSE also has invaluable guides on livestock handling, machinery, vehicles and maintenance, public safety and rights of way, as well as key issues including working on roofs, stacking and loading and working with ladders. These can all be downloaded from the HSE website.
  • Clients of Rural Protect have access to rradarreport. This is a digital incident reporting platform for prompt recording of major or minor and near miss incidents in your workplace. To find out more visit