An analysis of fatal accidents in agriculture in Great Britain

  • Mervyn Thomas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The number of fatal accidents in the agricultural, horticultural and forestry industry in Great Britain has declined from an annual rate of about 135 in the 1960's to its current level of about 50. Changes to the size and makeup of the population at risk mean that there has been no real improvement in fatal injury incidence rates for farmers.
The Health and Safety Executives' (HSE) current system of accident investigation, recording, and analysis is directed primarily at identifying fault, allocating blame, and punishing wrongdoers. Relatively little information is recorded about the personal and organisational factors that contributed to, or failed to prevent accidents. To develop effective preventive strategies, it is important to establish whether errors by the victims and others, occur at the skills, rules, or knowledge level of functioning: are violations of some rule or procedure; or stem from failures to correctly appraise, or control a hazard.
A modified version of the Hale and Glendon accident causation model was used to study 230 fatal accidents. Inspectors' original reports were examined and expert judgement applied to identify and categorise the errors committed by each of the parties involved.
The highest proportion of errors that led directly to accidents occurred whilst the victims were operating at the knowledge level. The mix and proportion of errors varied considerably between different classes of victim and kind of accident. Different preventive strategies will be needed to address the problem areas identified.
Date of AwardMay 1997
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorRichard Booth (Supervisor)


  • causation models
  • Hale and Glendon
  • human factors

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