Deaths among agricultural workers were the highest of all workplace fatalities in the South West last year, new figures reveal.

The figures also show that farming deaths in the South West made up nearly a fifth of the nationwide total for the period between March 2017 and March 2018.

Released by the Health and Safety Executive to coincide with the annual Farm Safety Week last week, the figures demonstrate that the agricultural sector still has some way to go to improve safety for its workers.

Five deaths in the South West were last year recorded as resulting from accidents in the agricultural sector.

Of those, two workers died of injuries inflicted by an animal; other causes of death included being struck by a moving vehicle, falling from height and a slip, trip or fall.

These causes have remained the top killers in the industry for many years, the HSE said.

The HSE's head of agriculture, Rick Brunt, stressed that the high death rate showed the need for collective efforts among stakeholders. "This emphasises the need for determined action by all involved in the farming industry if we are to bring about a real change to these appalling figures," Mr Brunt said.

“I urge farmers, managers and workers to step up to this challenge and drive down the toll of death, injury and ill-health on Britain’s farms. Please don’t step back and accept this as the norm for your industry," he went on.

“The causes of death have remained the same for years and the ways to prevent them are well known and straightforward. Work in the Farm Safety Partnership and through industry leaders suggests the industry is on the brink of tackling their problems.

The figures also show that fatalities disproportionately affect older workers.

Across the country, 40 per cent of all fatal injuries in 2017/18 were to workers aged 60 or over -despite this subsection of workers making up only around 10 per cent of the workforce.

However, the HSE also pointed out that Britain has of the lowest rates of fatal injuries to workers. In 2015 the standardised fatality rate for Britain was one of the lowest of all European countries and compared favourably with other large economies such as France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Poland, the executive said.