The Dangers of Agriculture Vehicles

Year after year, Agriculture remains one of the most hazardous industries in the UK, recording the highest number of deaths, as well as a significant number of injuries. In particular, deaths from moving vehicles in British farming accounted for 30% of all fatal injuries over the past 5 years. The risks to people are widespread including being struck or crushed by moving vehicles, vehicles overturning, losing traction or having mechanical failures. As well as having a devastating effect on the family and colleagues of anyone killed or injured, any accident could result in court proceedings be that a prosecution for health and safety breaches and/or Fatal Accident Inquiry being held.

Farm vehicles and agricultural machinery are an essential and integral part of daily farming activities. With the statistics as they are, however, more needs to be done to improve safety. With the summer months approaching and the countdown to harvest season on, it is not surprising that the HSE has chosen now to launch a new 2023 campaign to reduce farm vehicle deaths and injuries.

HSE Farm Vehicle Safety Campaign

The campaign is calling on everyone in the farming community to do what they can to reduce the number of injuries involving vehicles, and to save lives. The campaign recognises there are three parts of the "jigsaw" to promote safety on farms and if one part is missing, the risks increase. The steps are designed to be inexpensive and easy for farmers to implement. The three areas are:

  • Operating a safe farm;
  • Maintaining safe vehicles; and
  • Being a safe driver.

The HSE's Head of Agriculture has released a statement noting that "over the past five years, the average fatal incident rate is twenty-one times higher in agriculture than the average across all other industries. That is a shocking statistic. It’s time for us to make a change together to make our farms safer, and that’s why we’re asking farmers in England, Scotland and Wales to consider three areas of their daily farming activities and take the right actions to prevent another farming tragedy.”

What should you do to reduce the risks?

The above three areas come with clear and easy to follow guidance setting out what farmers should be doing to mitigate the risks to people on their farms.

The HSE reminds farmers that operating a safe farm means ensuring people and vehicles are kept apart. There are various means of doing so such as by using clearly marked routes and walkways, barriers and posts, signage, good lighting and high visibility clothing, to minimise the risk of collision.

Farmers should have an established system of regular inspection and maintenance of all their vehicles and machinery. Brakes, in particular, including trailer brakes, should be checked and maintained. Seatbelts should be fitted and worn and vehicle doors attached and closed securely when on the move. Mirrors should also be fitted to vehicles and should be kept clean to ensure optimum visibility.

Finally, the HSE emphases that anyone driving a vehicle should "pause and take a moment to be a safer driver" by using the handbrake every time and if there is a difficult terrain or gradient, follow simple safe stop routines before exiting a vehicle. Drivers should be trained properly, only operating vehicles and machinery that they are competent to use, and should protect everyone on the farm by considering blind spots and keep people where they can see them.

In addition to the information available in their "safe farm, safe driver, safe vehicle" campaign, the HSE also provide useful guidance on its website, providing practical tips on working with agricultural vehicles, maintenance, training and general farming safety. It is hoped that by farmers implementing these basic steps, the agriculture industry can see a reduction in the number of fatal accidents involving machinery. Adhering to this guidance will also help farmers comply with their health and safety duties, without having to implement difficult, unmanageable procedures or go to huge expense.

At Brodies, we can provide advice on how you establish a safer working environment for vehicle use on your farm. Should an accident occur, we can assist you with any investigation by the HSE or Police and subsequent court proceedings.


Clare Bone

Partner & Solicitor Advocate

Emma Dyson