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Farm accident claims

Solicitors in London
Half a million people work in agriculture, and whilst this can often be very rewarding work it can also be dangerous. From a safety perspective farming  is the UK’s most hazardous industry, with more fatalities at work (nearly 50 every year) than the construction industry.

Most farms are still family run businesses and they face a serious challenge managing the very many risks of injury that come with the work. Accidents do happen, but they are often caused by negligence, and on a farm they can have serious consequences.

Occupational hazards

There are a wide range of dangers inherent with the use of agricultural machinery, food production and livestock management:

  • Farm vehicles: Being run over or crushed by a farm vehicle is the single highest cause of fatal accidents on the farm. Tractors, diggers, transportation lorries, forklifts and other trucks, quad bikes and other off-road vehicles and combine harvesters all pose specific dangers and the risks need to be assessed and managed.
  • Farm machinery: There is a wide range of machinery in use in agriculture, and it all needs proper training, instruction and supervision to avoid serious injuries. A key safety problem highlighted by the HSE is the use of power take off shafts on the back of tractors, which are notorious for causing serious injury when not properly guarded or improperly used. Other machinery, such as potato rollers and conveyors, balers and bale choppers and feeder wagons all pose particular dangers that need to be addressed as part of a workplace assessment.
  • Falls from height: Many farm buildings have fragile roofs and are not built to withstand the weight of people. Even if this is known to the farmer it may not be known to farm workers, and unless safety equipment and warning notices are available there is a significant risk of serious injury. According to the Health & Safety Executive falls from height are the second biggest cause of agricultural fatalities.
  • Confined spaces: Storage silos and tanks and slurry pits are extremely hazardous places and carry a well-known danger of death. Toxic fumes and drowning are particular dangers. In fact 10% of all fatalities on farms are caused by asphyxiation or drowning.
  • Children: Most farms are also homes and so children will often be around the yard and buildings and will sometimes be helping with the farm work. But the statistics show that sadly 50 children have died in farm accidents in the last decade, and child protection on the farm is a serious safety issue.
  • Chemicals: Most farms routinely use pesticides, fertilisers and food additives, and the chemicals they contain may be harmful. There are additional dangers from dust, toxic gases and exhaust fumes, and these risks need to be assessed and controlled by law.
  • Livestock: Cows, bulls and horses in particular need careful and skilled handling, but even so can be unpredictable. All farm employees working with animals should be properly trained in their safe handling, and in particular how to avoid being bitten, kicked, trampled or crushed.
  • Lifting and handling: Although it is obvious that farm work can involve heavy manual labour that does not mean it should not be controlled. Manual handling regulations simply require employers to consider the risks involved in the work and make sure that the loads and tasks involved are manageable. If a farm worker is injured because he was required to manually lift something that was too heavy or had to repeatedly lift loads beyond his capacity then his employer will usually be liable.

Agricultural accident claims

Despite the high rate of serious injury in this sector most accidents (an estimated 75%) go unreported. But farmers are by law insured, in the same way as any other employer, and unless the accident was completely caused by the worker’s own carelessness or was an unavoidable accident then there is likely to be a successful claim following an agricultural accident.

Written by Stuart Kightley

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