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Farming is an absolutely vital sector of the economy of the Scottish Borders, and of Scotland and the UK as a whole, as a provider of jobs and wealth. Farming also provides us with the food and other produce that is consumed in our day to day living, a fact which is all too easy to forget and taken for granted.  We are all grateful for that.

But farming is also a dangerous industry.  Farmers and farm workers risk their lives on a daily basis operating machinery and vehicles, using chemicals, working with livestock, working at height or near to pits or within silos. They are also largely outdoor workers, exposed to all nature’s elements and the effects of rain, snow, ice, wind, heat, dust, and noise.

In many cases the risks affect their immediate family too, perhaps working beside them on the farm, living there and in the case of children, even playing there. 

This makes it all the more disturbing to note that in 2010 agriculture gained infamy as the single most dangerous industry in the UK, based on the number of fatalities as a factor of the number of workers employed. Over the previous ten years, the Health and Safety Executive had recorded 455 people as dying working on British farms and another 1,700 people having been seriously injured. That is equivalent to an average of almost one person each week killed as a result of agricultural work in the UK, plus the many more who suffered serious injury or illness.

Some action has recently been taken. In August 2014 the Scottish Government, the National Farmers Union of Scotland, NFU Mutual Insurance and the Health and Safety Executive launched The Farm Safety Partnership for Scotland, a campaign publicly stating a shared commitment to work together to help significantly reduce the tragic toll of people who are killed or seriously injured on Scotland’s farms and crofts each year. They produced a new campaign leaflet “Working Together to Save Lives”, which stated that 70% of work related deaths on Scotland’s farms were caused by four dangers – Falls, Animals, Transport and Equipment , or FATE for short. The leaflet cautioned farmers not to leave their safety to FATE and also contained advice, seemingly based on the previously available Health and Safety Executive guidance.

The question of whether this campaign and leaflet alone is a sufficient to response to the unacceptable risk facing the farming community is not answerable here. But the gravity of the risk has been underlined in the Scottish Borders in recent weeks with the press reporting of the Fatal Accident Inquiry at Selkirk Sheriff Court into the tragic death of Lauder farmer, Jim Sharp, earlier in 2014.

What we at Thompsons Solicitors know all too well is that the effect of death, injury and ill health caused by farming accidents can be devastating. Life is forever changed for those left behind after a fatal farming accident, and similarly, for those who are left to nurse, care or provide for someone who’s suffered life altering injury or illness.

Farmers and farm workers have a right to return home from work safe and sound, just like anyone else. We believe that improving health and safety in the farming industry is in everyone’s interest, throughout the Scottish Borders, and we strongly believe that we should all work together to avoid accidents and improve upon the terrible statistics of recent times. 

From our office in Galashiels, Thompsons are committed to working for the people of the Scottish Borders by campaigning for improvements in health and safety in the farming industry whenever we can. And if the unthinkable happens, we’ll work as hard as we can to obtain justice and compensation for you or your family.  


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