Women in Agriculture Taskforce: final report

The final report of the Women in Agriculture Taskforce.

8. Health and Safety

Agriculture is the most dangerous industry in the UK with the highest number of fatalities each year. It is dangerous for all family members including children. Concern about safety in agriculture was a recurring theme amongst the women interviewed in the 2017 research.


  • The Health and Safety Executive and Farm Safety Partnership Scotland must raise awareness of the health and safety risks to women, and how to reduce the risk of accidents on farms, crofts, and small holdings. Practical solutions must be provided and communicated effectively.
  • Manufacturers of agricultural equipment must develop equipment which will improve women’s safety.
  • All educational agriculture courses must include an accredited module covering health and safety on farms, crofts and small holdings.
  • The Health and Safety Executive should visit rural primary schools across Scotland to educate children about health and safety on farms, crofts and smallholdings.

Specific Actions

  • A minimum of two health and safety training programmes a year targeted at women should be run by agricultural organisations in receipt of public funding (e.g. Lantra, the Farm Advisory Service).
  • Private enterprise should be encouraged to develop an innovation fund for the design of new equipment and clothing for women in agriculture to enable them to operate more safely.
  • Providers of agricultural degrees and other land-based training must be required to ensure their students are graduating with the skills, knowledge and mandatory qualifications to farm safely (e.g. spraying, tractor driving, or quad bike certification).

Key Taskforce discussion and supporting research

In the 2017 research, health and safety in agriculture was not an identified area for exploration. However, the topic was raised repeatedly by those interviewed and both men and women were of the view that women are more safety conscious than men. The 2017 research evidence did not always find this to be the case, as both men and women take risks on farms.

Women sometimes recounted taking risks to ‘prove’ that they could farm as well as men. Therefore, where women are trying to disprove gender stereotypes, this can have implications for health and safety. What makes agricultural health and safety so critical is that any ‘near miss’ could have been a fatality. Women discussed the importance of having the right equipment and infrastructure. When this is in place they are better equipped to conduct work safely, for example:

"I think well actually if this gating was all adjusted a little bit I could run that cow from there to there, lock it in the yoke, I don’t have to carry a six foot hurdle myself and pin it up, and move dung to get it in the right place." #New entrant woman Orkney

It seems that if the right equipment is in place, then women and men, especially older men, can carry out work more safely. The need to give women’s farm safety more attention is underscored by the findings in the research that new entrant women often become the primary farmer when children are born, because their partner is often working full time off farm. Women in this study seem to be combining childcare with full time farm work:

"I was out feeding beasts when she was about a week old!" #Young new entrant woman

The Taskforce also discussed the suitability of current health and safety information. Concerns were raised that available information is difficult to access and focuses primarily on risks. Practical solutions to known risks must be identified and effectively communicated.

The Taskforce considered health and safety to be a very important subject, not only for women, but also for the whole agricultural industry. This is an issue relevant to all members of the family and there was discussion on the vulnerability of older individuals and children. While our focus was primarily on health and safety relating to the needs of women on farms, crofts and small holdings, it is our view that agricultural health and safety needs wider consideration, for example in addressing the safety needs of older farmers or those with disabilities. Many of these solutions could overlap with health and safety provision for women farmers.


Email: womeninagriculture@gov.scot

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