Number of farm accidents jumps by over 30% in the last 10 years

The number of farm accidents has jumped by 31% in the last 10 years, according a national survey of farm accidents conducted by the Teagasc National Farm Survey (NFS).

An increase of 13% has been witnessed in the last five years, it added.

Between 2012 and 2017, the survey found that 11% of farms had an accident and – in total – 2,814 accidents occurred.

It indicated that dairy farms had the highest accident rate of 18% over the survey period; this compared to tillage farms on 12%, sheep farms on 11%,  farms with the cattle rearing systems (9%) and farms with finishing systems on 8%.

The 2017 Teagasc NFS farm accident survey data represents 85,000 farms with a standard output of greater than €8,000.

Over 40% of accidents involved livestock

The survey found that 42% of accidents involved livestock, with farm vehicles or machinery involved in a further 25%. Trips or falls resulted in 13% of the remaining farm accidents, followed by chainsaws (7%) and farm buildings (6%).

It was noted that the proportion of accidents involving farm vehicles or machinery has more than doubled from 2011 to 2017. As well as this, livestock-related accidents increased by 26% over the same period.

However, the survey – which was co-authored by Teagasc health and safety specialist Dr. John McNamara with Teagasc NFS colleagues Dr. Emma Dillon, Brian Moran and Dr. John Lennon – noted a marked decline in the proportion of accidents due to trips and falls.

The vast majority of farm accidents – 64% – occurred in the farmyard and a further 15% in farm buildings. The remaining 21% happened in fields (19%) and on farm roadways or lanes (2%).

According to the survey, the vast majority of on-farm accidents (92%) involved a family member, with 80% occurring to the farmer.

A total of 12% involved a spouse or another family member, while the remaining proportion of accidents involved workers (5%) and others (3%).

Medical treatment

Some 97% of farm accident victims required medical treatment, with 73% attending hospital. A further 19% attended a doctor and 4% received first aid.

The survey found that, tragically, 1% of such accidents reported resulted in a fatality.

Meanwhile, the survey showed that 30% of accidents resulted in a work absence of more than a month, with 21% being more than two months.

Some 13% of accidents resulted in a work absence of between 11 and 30 days; an absence of 4-10 days represented 22%; and 18% of accidents forced those involved to miss work for between one and three days. Just 17% of accidents resulted in no work time loss, Teagasc explained.

The survey data indicated that younger farmers are more likely to have non-fatal accidents in contrast to fatal accidents.

‘Behaviour is an important part of safety’

Commenting on the survey, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, said: “These non-fatal accident statistics make for stark reading and highlight that behaviour is an important part of safety.

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“My department has included a farm safety component to the Knowledge Transfer Group meetings and also made farm safety a mandatory part of drawing down TAMS grants.

Farmers need to take time to plan their work and not take risks. The impact on families of serious accidents is unquantifiable, so I appeal once again to farmers to make the change to keep safe.

Concluding, the director of Teagasc, Prof. Gerry Boyle, said: “Farm accidents cause tragedy, pain and suffering, disability and economic loss, so it is vital to give safety first priority.

“Teagasc will be focusing on lessons from the survey findings in its efforts to assist farmers to improve farm safety.”