FARMING in the South West has the highest death rate in Britain, after a study discovered that seven people had been killed in the west country in the last 12 months.

Marlborough-based insurance specialist Lycetts warned farmers to be more vigilant after the industry was labelled the riskiest profession in the country.

Seven people were killed in the South West alone last year, making up 23 per cent of the country’s farming deaths. The Health and Safety Executive revealed that 30 people were killed in British farms, of which three were members of the public.

The South West deaths include a self-employed contractor, 49, who was killed by a falling hay bale that crushed him as he moved to adjust the sheeting.

A farmer, 78, was fixing his roof when he fell to his death and another farmer, 68, died after sinking into free flowing grain in a silo.

William McCarter, of Lycetts, said: “HSE’s research shows that vehicle-related activities consistently lead to more deaths than any other category, and that half of the workers killed by something collapsing were taking part in activities involving vehicles and machinery.

“So, while some of these deaths have been the result of freak accidents, many could have been prevented.

"Although this is a sad fact, this gives us hope that, with better practice on farms and safer use of machinery, incidents like this could become rarer.

“Hopefully this is down to farmers being more vigilant about safety and risk assessments – but we still have a way to go.”