‘Self-employed farmer died after a fall through a fragile roof’ - so reads the latest fatality notification from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). According to statistics, falls are the second-highest cause of death in agriculture, with at least eight people dying after falling from a height every year.

If you survive, you will suffer broken bones and worse. Indeed, falls often happen from roofs, lofts, ladders, vehicles, bale stacks, and unsuitable access equipment, such as buckets. And these accidents and injuries cause not just pain but also cost you time on the farm and money.

The truth is that farming is a hazardous industry. We work with potentially dangerous machinery, vehicles, chemicals, livestock, at height or near pits and silos.

It is also pretty clear that as an industry we are terrible at keeping ourselves and family members safe from harm. The numbers confirm the most tragic of incidents but don’t include the little accidents, which maybe should serve as a warning.

In reality, how many of us actually follow the law and guidelines when it comes to safety on farm? The truth probably is, not a lot of us. So what to do? If you were to consult the HSE on the matter of working on roofs, the advice you would get is that most types of fibre cement roofs will be fragile and that roof lights will often also be fragile.

As far the official guidance goes, no one must ever work on or from, or walk over, fragile roofs unless platforms, covers or similar are provided which will adequately support their weight.

The advice also states that anyone who works on roofs should always consider first whether it is really necessary to access the roof. Does the work need to be done, or could it be done in some other way, such as from below or from an integrated work platform?

Of course, it’s easier said than done, especially on a busy farm where there is never enough time to sit back, but planning the job - whatever that may be - could well be a life-saver.

So let’s not forget that life is never the same again for family members left behind after a work-related death, or for those looking after someone with a long-term illness or serious injury caused by their work.