CUMBRIAN farmers are being urged to 'stop and think twice' following a surge in agricultural deaths.

The stark warning comes from rural risk specialists, who say figures published by the Health and Safety Executive revealed that 41 people were killed as a result of farming and other agriculture-related activities in 2020/21.

This figure is almost double the number of deaths as in the previous year. Five of the deaths took place in the North West, including a two-year-old child, who was killed when overcome by slurry fumes.

While the number of people killed fluctuates each year, the five most common causes of fatal injuries over the last five years remain – being struck by moving vehicles, killed by an animal, struck by an object, falling from height and contact with moving machinery.

“Fatal injury rates in agriculture remain notoriously high, earning it the unenviable reputation as the riskiest industry sector,” said Alex Cormack, of Lycetts Risk Management Services.

“We know that farmers face a myriad of potential hazards, from contact with machinery and vehicles, chemicals, and livestock, to working at a height, and the demanding, solitary and relentless work associated with agriculture heightens farmers’ exposure to risk. But we are seeing the same causes of fatal injury crop up time and time again. A change in attitude to risk will be the driving force in changing this narrative.

“Of course, some of these deaths will be a result of an unfortunate and unforeseeable accidents. However, by scrupulously carrying out actions, such as following machinery operation safety procedures, handling chemicals in the proper manner, safely checking the robustness of platforms and roofs, careful handling and securing of livestock, and ensuring jobs that require more than one person have sufficient manpower, the risk can be greatly reduced.”