FARMERS across the south are being urged to make "real changes" following a 20% increase in fatalities in the industry.

A report published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reveals that 39 people were killed on farms across the UK in 2018/19.

The report says 32 of the casualties were agricultural workers and seven were members of the public, including two children.

Four of the fatalities occurred in the south east region, which includes Hampshire.

Agriculture remains the UK’s most dangerous occupation. Its fatality rate is 18 times higher than the all-industry average and accounts for 22% of all deaths in the workplace.

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Awareness of the need to make farms safer is said to be at an all-time high.

But Stuart Roberts, vice-president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "Farmers need to put their words into action and commit to making real changes on farms.

"It should not be treated as as ad-on or something we do only because we have to but rather a core part of how we look after ourselves and our businesses."

In the period covered by the report more than a third of agricultural fatalities (36%) were caused by moving vehicles.

Nine people were fatally injured by bulls and cows, seven were killed in falls from buildings, ladders and equipment, three were struck by a moving object and three died after "contact" with machinery.

Two died as a result of asphyxiation/drowning and one person was killed by barbed wire.

Andrew Turner, head of agriculture at the HSE, said: "Agriculture is a critical part of our economy but every year we have to report that agriculture has the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK.

"This is made even more tragic by the fact that the deaths and injuries are avoidable."

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Stephanie Berkeley, who manages the Farm Safety Foundation, said: “Farming is vital to the UK economy – it's the bedrock of our food and drink industry.

"Many farmers are taking innovative steps to make their businesses safe, resilient and sustainable, but it is equally important for them to realise that they are the farm's greatest asset.

"Investing in your physical and mental wellbeing will be the only way to really future-proof your business - and your life.”

Lindsay Sinclair, chief executive of NFU Mutual, which set up the Foundation, said: "Awareness of farm safety has never been higher.

"It’s great to see the next generation becoming more actively engaged in a really practical way to embrace a better attitude to farm safety but changing a culture takes time and commitment."