Recently, a debate on farm safety took place in the European Parliament in the presence of Commissioner Hogan regarding the high levels of accidents and fatalities in agriculture. The main causes identified were high pressure at work, income insecurity, and a lack of training into the safe operation of machinery.


Irish MEP, Mairead McGuinness, who placed the point on the agenda, was sharp on the issue stating: Europe knows how many calves are born, how their welfare is, but not how many farmers are killed every year’. She asked the Commission to provide a clearer picture on the situation. She also pointed out whether the romantic notion of family farming could be part of the problem, referring to the statistical evidence that smallholders are more likely to have accidents.

Acquis on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) at European level

The Commission pointed out that the EU had developed a comprehensive acquis on Occupational Safety and Health (OSH), which applies to all economic sectors, including agriculture. Between 2008 and 2015 it has led to a drop of fatalities with a quarter. But many small farms do not fall under this acquis and they should become the priority of Member States. The Commissioner would be open to any ideas on how the CAP could be a positive driver of change in this area, although it is not its main function. Besides, Mr Hogan stressed the need to develop the necessary monitoring tool, a responsibility for Member States.

Farming in Europe is under pressure

Mr Hogan concluded that indeed, as it was highlighted in the debate, income pressure, weather, and all the risks associated with agriculture, contribute at various times towards putting additional pressure on farmers and therefore it requires more care and attention in terms of how they farm and how they go about their business.  

Modern farm machines can contribute to reduce number of accidents

The discussions still highlighted a divide between the real problems and the current focus areas on EU level. Modern machines are part of the solution rather than being part of the problem, and all stakeholders have to take up their responsibility to achieve a factual decrease of fatal accidents. CEMA launched an initiative to reduce road safety accidents by 50% by 2035. The focus on road safety notably adresses the pressure put on the farm equipment industry to use new technologies from the automotive area, although the actual need is hardly assessed. But the real problem is the high number of accidents happening on farm level. The Commissioner correctly pointed to the lack of ‘data sharing’ by Member States to detect the main causes and responsibilities. His directorate general agriculture is not equipped to lead such initiative, but EU directorate general employment certainly should take the lead. 

Interventions from the Members of the European Parliament can be found HERE