This Farm Safety Week, leading rural insurer NFU Mutual is supporting the Farm Safety Foundation by urging farmers to make sure they are protecting the livelihoods of both themselves and their employees.

According to new figures from the Health and Safety Executive, there were 25 people killed on farms in 2021/22 and 22 of them were farmers or farm employees.

Although this was a welcome decrease from the year before, agriculture still has the worst rate or worker fatalities of the main industrial sectors.

The rate of fatal injury to farm workers is 21 times higher than the all-industry rate, so it’s important farmers financially protect their families should the worst happen.

In addition, the HSE say each year there are an average of 12,000 non-fatal injuries in agriculture, and 11,000 agricultural workers suffering from work-related illnesses.

Stephanie Berkeley, from the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “As a charity established to preserve and protect the physical and mental wellbeing of farmers, we work every day to educate and inspire the farming community so we can start to make a real change in the culture of safety on our farms. While many of the incidents that happen on our farms are avoidable, the fact is that accidents can and do happen.

“That’s why it’s critically important that farm business owners and contractors consider the risks in the workplace and think about how a life-changing incident could affect them physically and financially and how they can best protect their livelihood and that of their dependents.”

David Nottingham, protection expert at NFU Mutual, said: “Farmers know better than most that unexpected events can have a dramatic impact on their business.

“If you’re self-employed it’s important to look at the ‘What ifs?’ and plan accordingly. A typical life insurance policy for a 30-year-old man covering £300,000 for 25 years can cost around the same as a standard monthly Netflix subscription, but it provides a valuable safety net.

“If you’re ill or injured for a lengthy period and unable to work, Income Protection can provide you and your family with a replacement income to give you time to focus on recovery.

“Similarly, you can receive a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a specified serious illness if you have Critical Illness cover. That can be used to repay borrowings, pay for home adaptations or meet other commitments.”

Contractors urged to act

Latest figures show that 13 of the 22 farmers killed in agriculture in 2021/22 were self-employed.

It’s crucial that self-employed farmers and contractors consider ways to protect their livelihood and provide a safety net for their families.

What is available?

Life insurance pays out in the event of a death, and critical illness cover pays a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a specified serious illness. Income protection provides regular monthly payments if you’re unable to work through illness or injury.

Income Protection has become increasingly popular among farmers in the past two years. Farmers taking out Income Protection through NFU Mutual increased by more than a third in 2020 and remained at that level in 2021.

All three can be vital tools to help protect the livelihoods of farmers in the eventuality of an accident or serious illness.

Farm partnerships

Farm owners can offer these products to employees to help attract and retain talent, while those farmers in partnerships can use them to protect the business.

David added: “Those that co-own businesses need to consider what would happen if a co-owner died or became seriously ill.

“They or their family may want to sell their interest in the business. Putting in place the right cover and agreements can help the continuing owners retain control of the business and protect the outgoing owner and their family.

“It’s important to speak with a professional financial adviser who understands agriculture and your business to plan effectively.”

CASE STUDY

Mark Roberts, NFU Mutual Agent from Wrexham

This is not an easy piece to write but it needs writing, even if it only makes you stop and think for a moment. This is a call for action, to do today what you’re putting off until tomorrow.

My job is to advise. Meeting people from all walks of life and discussing their needs.

Which brings me to the point of this story. As an NFU Mutual Agent, I have friends that have become customers and customers that have become friends.

One of my first successes was to challenge a customer that insuring themselves might be just as much of a priority as insuring their herd. “If you lose a cow, your business continues, but without personal protection, if something happens to you, the business and your income stops!”

We set up Group Personal Accident insurance and agreed for our Financial Adviser to meet with him to discuss Life Insurance and Critical Illness cover.

In 2017 the customer called to say that he would be off work for a while as he had been diagnosed with cancer. NFU Mutual paid out a Group Personal Accident claim and the cancer went into remission. High fives all round!

I wish that was the end of the story, a happy ending. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Six weeks ago, I had a call from the customer asking if I could call in to discuss some outstanding claims.

The claims were for a tractor, some storm damage, and the real reason for visiting; cancer had reappeared. I set up a Critical Illness claim for him as the treatment began and left him with the paperwork.

We spoke a couple of times in the following weeks, all claims finalised. A gentle nag to complete the critical illness claim form. “Shall I come and fill them in with you?”

“No but call in if you’re passing, and don’t forget to bring a cappuccino. Pretty bored here.”

I picked up a couple of coffees one morning and called to see him – he was looking well, and the doctors seemed positive.

We completed the claims forms together, I checked the medical terms we had written down with the nurse that was helping with his new medication, a quick squeeze on the shoulder, a promise to call again soon, a check that their partner had my number and off I went.

Claim forms submitted to our critical illness team, subject heading URGENT. I received a WhatsApp that evening. ‘Payment received, cheers mate!’

No contact Wednesday. I sent a quick message to him on Thursday: “How are you doing today?” Just the one tick – delivered, not read.

Friday morning, the call I wasn’t expecting, not yet. He passed away in the early hours. I felt empty.

Just 46-years-old with two young children, a partner, and now a farm without its custodian.

Did I do anything to help, did I make a difference? I hope I did. I know I tried my best. I challenged their thinking and they took out cover. At least his family have some time provided by that payment to consider their options without more financial pressure.

And my message? Don’t put off until tomorrow what you could and should do today. Make sure that you have thought about protection. Speak to someone, get some advice.