Agricultural injury & illnesses.

Worker mountig tilling accessory on a cultivator machine

Agricultural work can also be physically demanding and the repetitive nature of the

work causes a range of health problems, including severe back pain.

Around 430 000 people work in agriculture, which includes farming and use of the

countryside. This is less than 1.5% of the working population, yet agriculture has

one of the highest fatality rates of all industries and is responsible for between 15%

and 20% of all deaths to workers in Britain each year.


The total annual cost of injuries (in farming, forestry and horticulture) to society is

estimated at £190 million and around two-thirds of that is due to reportable injuries

(£130 million), with fatalities accounting for around another third (£55 million).

Source: Costs to Britain of workplace injuries and work-related ill health: 2010/11 updateHSE 2010.


The most common causes of death are:

■ transport – being struck by moving vehicles;

■ being struck by a moving or falling object, eg bales, trees etc;

■ falls from height;

■ asphyxiation or drowning;

■ contact with machinery;

■ injury by an animal;

■ being trapped by something collapsing or overturning;

■ contact with electricity, nearly two-thirds of which involves overhead power lines



The most common causes of non-fatal injuries are:

■ handling, lifting or carrying;

■ slip, trip or fall on the same level;

■ being struck by moving, including flying or falling, objects;

■ falls from height;

■ contact with machinery;

■ being injured by an animal.


People working in the industry can also be permanently disabled by ill health. Breathing

in dusts, handling loads, being exposed to noise or vibration, using chemicals and

working with animals can all cause ill health, with symptoms that can take years to

develop. In some cases this can result in premature death.


However, in agriculture:

■ about 12 000 people suffered from an illness which was caused or made worse by

their current or most recent job;

■ musculoskeletal injury (back pain, sprains or strains) is over three times the rate

for all industries;

■ the number of people affected by asthma is twice the national average;

■ about 20 000 people are affected by zoonoses (diseases passed from animals

to humans) each year.


Workers may be exposed to extreme heat, cold, high humidity and radiation from

direct and prolonged exposure to the sun (all of which imposes stress on the

worker). They may also be exposed to excessive vibration, noise, or may have to

work in uncomfortable positions for long periods and handle a wide range of

chemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides.