When the HSE published the 2017 fatal injury statistics in the summer a number of statistics grabbed the headlines.

These included:

  • a total of 137 workers killed in Great Britain (the second lowest on record)
  • fatalities in construction down to the lowest number on record
  • numbers killed in waste and recycling almost double the five year average for that sector
  • falls from height and moving vehicles remain accountable for the highest number of deaths
  • additional 92 members of the public were killed as a result of work related activities.

However one other statistic struck me as standing out from the crowd:

  • the fatal injury rate for workers over 65 is around four times higher than any other age range (60-64 is almost double)

We are all well aware that agriculture remains a very high risk industry; it is also a sector with a significant number of family businesses, which tend to have a relatively low turn-over rate for staff. It is not uncommon for family businesses to have employees who have been with them for in excess of 40 years.

These statistics show that not only are they in a high risk sector generally but that their risk of being killed in a work related accident is significantly higher than a younger employee.

There may be a number of reasons for the higher fatality rate; slowing reactions may be one of them, but we suspect it has more to do with a difference in the cultural approach to health and safety as between different generations.

There may be less of a willingness to learn or accept new practices/safety measures – some might think that they know better (through their experience) and may take risks that others would not.

Whatever the reason it seems abundantly clear that businesses with higher proportions of older workers should take specific steps to ensure that the safety message is getting through and (very importantly) being acted upon.

Working in agriculture can be high risk and the consequences of getting it wrong can be fatal. Be proactive in your health and safety management and follow the Birketts safety mantra of:

  • Say what you do
  • Do what you say
  • Have the paperwork to prove it