Five people were killed on farms in the south west in just 12 months.

Figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 33 people across Britain were killed in agriculture in 2017/18 – three more on the previous year.

These findings have further cemented agriculture’s reputation as the riskiest industry to work in, with it reporting the highest fatal injury rate, which is around 18 times higher than the all industry rate.

The total number of people killed in the region over the past five years is 25 – an average of five deaths per year.

Simon Hay, of rural insurance firm Lycetts, said: “Agriculture’s high fatality rate significantly outstrips that of other industries.

“It is more than five times higher than the second most-risky industry, construction, which really drives home just how hazardous an industry it is.

“Farmers face potentially fatal risks on a daily basis, from working with unpredictable animals to potentially dangerous machinery, so protecting personal and employee health should be top priority.

“Sadly, members of the public, family members and children living on the farm also get caught up in incidents and account for some of the overall deaths.

“It is clear the burden of keeping farms safe is a heavy, but necessary one, with no room for error.

“There have been great strides with regards to health and safety over the past decades, with the number of fatal injuries to workers in agriculture falling by around half since 1981 – but we still have a huge way to go.

“Just last week, we learned that a farmer was jailed for causing the death of a young woman by failing to replace a £75 cover on the drive shaft of a milling machine.”

Of the 33 deaths in the agricultural sector this year, four were members of the public, two of which were children.

Deaths in the south west include a 69-year-old self-employed farmer, who was run over by a telehandler. He had left the cab, leaving the engine running. It appeared the vehicle moved forward trapping him against the gate. He died from crush injuries.

An 82-year-old self-employed farmer, assisting a vet, was knocked over by a cow in a crush. The cow’s head was not restrained and he was struck and fell to the ground. He died from head injuries.

A 68-year-old farm worker died from head injuries after falling from an unprotected edge of a floor in a farm building.

A 63-year-old self-employed farmer was trampled by a cow when checking on a calf. The cow knocked him into a wall, causing him to fall. He died from chest injuries.

A 61-year-old farm worker struck his head on a sharp object. He appeared to have slipped, tripped or collapsed against a trailer that he had been repairing. He died from head injuries

Nearly half (48 per cent) of the agricultural workers killed in Britain were over 65 and almost twice as many self-employed people were killed as employees.

Richard Wade, of Lycetts Risk Management Services, said: “Unwise risk-taking is an underlying problem in the agricultural industry, and the most vulnerable are hit the hardest. The fatal injury rate for over 65s was nearly five times that of younger workers. Many farmers are working well past their retirement age, with little to no help, so physically, and cognitively, they are put under a lot of strain.

“These factors mean they may not appropriately assess or mitigate risks.

“Sadly, some of these deaths are a result of freak accidents, but others are preventable.

“By implementing health and safety policies, carrying out robust risk assessments and undertaking health and safety training, farmers can ensure good practice is an integral part of their business, creating a safer environment for them, their workers, and the wider community – as well as help protect the future of their business.

“Death and injury can have a devastating impact on family and friends, so the value of doing so is immeasurable.”