FIGURES just released show there were five fatalities in the past year on farms in Cumbria and other areas of the north west, compared to just one the year before.

A new Health and Safety Executive report revealed that the north west area has been worst affected with the highest number of deaths on farms throughout the UK.

Although the figures for Cumbria are not available, it is thought at least two of the five are from the county.

Across Britain as a whole 21 people died in agriculture, forestry or fishing accidents over the last year, around half of the previous year - 20 agricultural workers and one member of the public - four-year-old child.

The biggest cause of these fatalities was farm transport, although in Cumbria a 73-year-old self-employed farmer was knocked over and killed by a cow in a pen. He was treating a newborn calf when he was attacked by a cow causing him to lose his balance and fall backwards against a concrete kerb. He died from head injuries.

The figures emerged during the annual Farm Safety Week (July 20-25), which aims to raise awareness of health and safety on farms to reduce serious and fatal accidents.

Workers over the age of 55 were disproportionately at risk of death following an incident. When comparing older and younger farm worker age groups, the five-year fatal injury rate is nearly six times higher for over 65s compared to the 16-24 age group.

Even with the encouraging news that numbers are dropping this year, agriculture still has the highest rate of fatal injury of all the main industry sectors, a shocking 18 times higher than the all-industry rate, accounting for around 20 percent of worker fatalities.  

Stephanie Berkeley, who manages the Farm Safety Foundation, the charity behind the campaign, said every one of these incidents was a family tragedy.

And she warned that, with coronavirus adding to the mental strain this year, farmers needed to maintain their focus on safety.