Agricultural Accidents (Records)

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 9th April 2014.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Conservative, North Herefordshire 12:33 pm, 9th April 2014

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require the Health and Safety Executive to record certain details of agricultural accidents and to report those details annually;
and for connected purposes.

I remind the House of my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, and of the fact that I breed Hereford cattle myself.

In 2006, my constituent Ian Jackson, a vet, was tragically killed by a runaway heifer in Weobley, Herefordshire. He died from injuries sustained after he was attacked and crushed against a lorry. In 2007, my constituent Mick Daw was killed by a Belgian Blue bull in Stoke Prior, near Leominster. Mr Daw had gone to the assistance of another man who was trying to move the bull.

The Health and Safety Executive has reported six deaths so far this year from accidents involving cattle. Last year seven people were killed, there were five deaths in the previous year, and there were six in the year before that. The Health and Safety Executive’s agriculture statistics show that 29% of fatal injuries to the public between 2001 and 2012 were caused by livestock, and that that was the most common cause. That is nearly a third of fatal injuries.

The statistics for injuries are similar or worse. Since 1 April 2013 another two members of the public have been killed following incidents with cattle. There is a case ongoing in our courts at the moment resulting from a rambler being found dead. Over the past four years 24 people have been killed in incidents with cattle, and more than 600 people are injured by animals each year. I am sure we all feel that too many people are dying in livestock-related incidents and we should be doing more to stop this problem.

The Health and Safety Executive has a record of all these incidents, but the same data are not recorded in each case. For example, I could not tell the House what breed of cattle were involved in most of the 24 deaths. That is despite the Government acknowledging the fact that some breeds are dangerous. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lists seven breeds of dairy bull that are prohibited at all times from fields with public footpaths. Breed information, which is easy to access from cattle passports, is not automatically recorded and it must be.

There is no requirement under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 or other health and safety legislation for the breeds of cattle involved in incidents to be reported to the Health and Safety Executive. Currently, such a report includes the following: the date of the incident; the severity of the incident— either death or injury; who was involved—the owner, the occupier, or someone contracted or working for them or a member of the public; and a brief description of the incident. Any further detail is at the discretion of the investigator and based on whether any information—cattle breed, for instance—is deemed relevant to the inquiry.

I want to ensure that the necessary details are recorded so we have useful information from which we can learn from these tragic incidents and help prevent future deaths in the countryside. This Bill will ensure the Health and Safety Executive records the following: cattle breed; age of livestock; type of livestock—cows, heifers, bullocks or steers, cows with or without calves or bulls—and their age; details of those injured; whether a right of way was involved; whether the person was accompanied by a dog; whether the person was trespassing; if tuberculosis testing was taking place; and any other relevant and useful information. The Health and Safety Executive will also continue to record the details it currently records.

This change will ensure a uniform list of details is recorded for each and every incident involving cattle. This Bill will provide us with the right data so we can then advise farmers about health and safety concerns and protect them and the public.

The Country Land and Business Association says it is

“always keen to reduce the number of incidents between people and animals.”

The National Farmers Union supports increased detail in the recording of incidents. Indeed, much of the previous list of extra information to be recorded was provided by the NFU. I can tell the House that the Ramblers, too, agrees with the need for increased data collection. Janet Davis, its senior policy officer on rights of way, went so far as to say:

“Scrupulous data collection .... of all kinds is essential.”

As the House knows, supermarkets are very keen to promote ethically sourced British beef. Indeed Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op all sell products with the red tractor assurance. The popular food assurance scheme covers production standards including food safety, hygiene, animal welfare and the environment. However, red tractor assurance, other assurance schemes and the supermarkets themselves do not take into consideration whether the cattle they use are dangerous. That is because they cannot; there are no available statistics. However, if the supermarkets had access to data identifying dangerous breeds of cattle would they not then source their meat from breeds that pose less of a threat to farmers?

Twenty-four deaths in four years is far too many not to take action to address the situation. Increased information and learning might help us to prevent future incidents. We need to ensure the relevant changes are made to legislation now so the Health and Safety Executive records the appropriate details. Once this vital information starts to be recorded, I believe it will prove a useful tool to farmers, their spouses and all those working in agriculture or walking in the country.

I want to help people make sensible and informed decisions on the types of cattle they buy, farm and place in fields that have public access. Nobody wants more “’elf and safety”, but the Health and Safety Executive records some data already. I want it to do it better and to make those data relevant and useful. Until we get the facts, we cannot use our judgment. Poor judgment can cause accidents, and accidents with large animals can be fatal.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That Bill Wiggin, Neil Parish, Martin Vickers, Richard Benyon, Sir Edward Garnier, Sheryll Murray and Jesse Norman present the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 June, and to be presented (Bill 200).