Opinion

Coroner’s call for annual tractor inspections must be acted upon

Last week saw a coroner in Co. Armagh recommend the introduction of annual MOT inspections for farm machinery.

The MOT test is the NCT-equivalent in the Republic of Ireland.  And the judge in question was absolutely right.

When are we really going to take the issue of farm safety seriously in this part of the world?

The coroner in question was reflecting on the tragic circumstances leading to the death of a Co Armagh farmer during the late summer of 2015. Faulty tractor brakes were identified as the cause of the tragedy.

The reality is that a modern tractor contains the equivalent computing capacity as that used to send man to the moon almost 50 years ago.

Moreover, these same vehicles can travel at speeds of up to 40mph on the roads. So why not have them inspected regularly? And the same principle holds for other items of farm machinery such as loading shovels, diggers and top end quads.

For the record, it is extremely disappointing to note that the IFA does not favour the introduction of an NCT-equivalent inspection for farm machinery.

I also feel strongly that farm safety should be made a cross-compliance matter. The fundamental fact remains that farming is now the most dangerous career pathway to follow in Ireland.

This ‘unenviable’ reputation used to be one that hung around the construction sector like a lead weight. But that all changed, once the authorities decided to get tough with that industry and rightly so!

Should the equivalent of an NCT be introduced for tractors?

  • No (72%)
  • Yes (28%)

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Let me be clear about this: pushing ahead with lots more farm awareness events and producer-focused training are crucially important, where farm health and safety matters are concerned.

But there has to be a balance struck by the authorities between the carrot and the stick approach. I firmly believe that the relevant authorities must take a decision in the very near future to become much more focused in the way they address health and safety standards on farms.

One way that farmers can be made take more notice of the issue –in a truly meaningful way – is to hurt them in their pockets.

Anything that can be done to save even one life, or cut the accident rate on local farms should be given a fair wind.

I made these very points courtesy of an opinion column written for Agriland some weeks ago. And I make no apologies, whatsoever, for repeating them in the light of the views expressed by the Coroner in Armagh last week.

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