"Agriculture remains the major sector with the highest rates of ill-health and fatal injuries"5. "The fatal injury rate in agriculture for 2001-2002 was 9. 2 fatalities per 100,000 workers"6 and "in a ten year period from 1992-93 to 2001-02 a total of 497 people have be killed as a result of agricultural work related activities and many more have been injured or suffer from ill health"7. Included within these figures are a substantial number of children who have in many instances died as a result of the industry, "between 1990 and 2000, 44 children were killed in farm accidents – all of which could have been prevented"8.
The overall cost of injuries and deaths have a major impact on the families of the industry as well as on society. "The cost of accidents at work is enormous, both in human suffering and in lost production, and the management of every company should give special attention to improving safety"9. A report by the Health and Safety Executive10 (HSE) estimates the cost to society of accidents in agriculture to be i?? 122 million, whilst the cost to farms and farm workers being i?? 106. 6 million.
Much of the labour force employed within this industry will be 'unskilled', so it may be that basic health and safety should included in the school curriculum. Alternatively if the severity of these accidents and deaths were highlighted, managers and owners would be more aware of the consequences of employing unskilled workers. Safety can be defined as "absence from danger and avoidance of injury"11, according to this definition we should expect employers to do everything possible to keep employees away from danger and free from injury while at work.
Health is defined as "being physically and mentally well with body and mind in excellent working order"12, this goes beyond safety, and the employer should also seek to promote activities that encourage good health of the employee. The HSE along with the Department of Health, and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have "developed a three year program to study the health of farmers and other agricultural workers"13, obviously highlighting the concern within this industry.
This report may provide information on the health of workers within this area; it may be that if the industry is suffering from ill health in workers that it will be a contributing factor to the number of accidents and deaths associated with the industry. The HSE have also developed a "farm – Self Assessment – Pilot"14 scheme, this interactive software was available free to download from their website. It allowed the user to "carry out compressive health and safety assessment of their farms to help raise awareness in the industry"15.
This pilot ran from September to December 2003, with a target of 500 assessments, after this date persons who took part would be contacted for their comments. This report will provide essential information provided on the level of health and safety practices that are currently used within the industry. Studies of stress among farmers previously undertaken may be a contributing factor to the research. For example Walker and Walker (1998) studied the occurrence of self-reported symptoms (fatigue, loss of temper, difficulty in relaxing) and discovered higher occurrences in women than men and among younger farmers.
Simkin and others (1988) undertook questionnaire survey of random farmers in England and Wales; the results indicated that 79% had financial worries and 23% financial problems. The psychological autopsy approach of Hawton et al (1998) showed concerns about the elevated risk of suicide among farmers in England and Wales. These reports deal with the psychological area of farming; it may be that areas such as these are contributing to the number of farming accidents.
A ten-year study by Burnett (1992) noted an increase in the level of accidents during the introduction of milk quotas and during a sharp fall in sheep prices, again suggesting psychological problems. Standford (1991)16 carried out research into industrial diseases in the farming industry, which included awareness of Health and Safety practices implemented on farms in Ireland. The reports findings show that large numbers of the accidents occurred could be avoided.