The south west has seen the highest accidental death rate of farmers in the UK over the past year.

Seven people were killed on farms in the region from April 1 2016 to 31 March 2017.

Agriculture has proved to be the UK's riskiest industry to work in, 30 people in total have been killed on British farms in the past year. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveal that agriculture had the highest rate of fatal injury, around 18 times higher than the All Industry rate and six times higher than the construction industry.

A third of the deaths were cause by being struck by vehicles, a fifth from being trapped by something collapsing, just under a fifth were caused by being struck by an object and one in ten deaths were caused by contact with electricity. Deaths resulting from being injured by an animal and by falling from height were each 7%.

William McCarter of farm insurance specialist Lycetts, said: “It is worrying that agriculture remains one of the most dangerous industries, with the high fatality rate far-exceeding other industries.

“HSE’s research shows that vehicle-related activities consistently lead to more deaths than any other category, and that half of the workers killed by something collapsing were taking part in activities involving vehicles and machinery.

“So, while some of these deaths have been the result of freak accidents, many could have been prevented. Although this is a sad fact, this gives us hope that, with better practice on farms and safer use of machinery, incidents like this could become rarer."

Whilst 27 of the past year’s deaths involved workers, three were members of the public.

The age of the victims varies hugely, with the youngest being three and the oldest, 80. The youngest worker to be killed was 18. Nearly half of the workers killed in agriculture were over 65 and more than 85 per cent of workers killed were over the age of 45.

Deaths in the south west include a 49-year-old self-employed contractor who was killed by a falling hay bale. He was helping to sheet stacked bales but as he bent over to adjust the sheeting, a bale from the top layer of the stack fell and crushed him.

A 78-year-old self-employed farmer was killed when he fell off a roof. He was carrying out renovation and repair work and fell off the roof edge. There was no guard rail and the ladder hadn’t been secured to stop it moving.

A 66-year-old self-employed farmer was killed unblocking an auger in a grain silo. He sank under free-flowing grain and was asphyxiated.

Mr McCarter said: “What strikes me is the high death rate of older workers. Health and safety is a fundamental requirement of any farming operation, no matter how small or well-established it is, and minimising risk should be top priority.

“It is also alarming that self-employed farmers make up a large proportion of deaths; two thirds of those who died on farms were self-employed. There is a danger that farmers who work for themselves harbour a perception that they do not need to carry out the necessary risk assessments or abide by the health and safety regulations, as they don’t have any employees. But, as this research shows, this can have devastating consequences.

“It may also be a case of farmers, due to economic constraints, are having to manage difficult and labour-heavy jobs by themselves or with limited resources and are therefore putting themselves at increased risk.

“It is imperative that farmers take health and safety seriously and do their utmost to protect themselves, their employees and the public, as well as procuring comprehensive insurance cover in case a tragic incident like this does occur.”