Farmers warned of complacency increasing the risk of drowning

The risk of drowning on farms, particularly over this August bank holiday weekend, has been highlighted by John Leech, the Chief Executive Officer of  Irish Water Safety.

“This bank holiday weekend, there will be a stream of families leaving Dublin to visit family and friends on farms,” he said.

“They are going into environments that are unfamiliar and hazardous to them. They don’t understand the risks presented by: streams; rivers; ponds; lakes; bog holes; rainwater collection tanks; and slurry pits.”

Many Irish farms are located along the Irish coastline, or have some form of watercourse on the land, so the risk of drowning is comparatively high to farmers here, when compared to other countries, Leech said.

Ponds on farms can often be out of the view of the house or yard, so children should always be supervised by an adult when feeding ducks or playing nearby, the Irish Water Safety CEO said.

Reeds and grass can often obscure the edge of the pond, and its banks can give way under people’s weight, Leech warned.

Holes or drains left exposed after farm building work should be closed, he said.

People, he advised, should also be cautious when riding horses near and into water.

“Supervision of children on farms is essential,” the CEO said. 30 children aged 14 and under have drowned in the last decade.

Farmers, who are working around water and slurry pits on their land, day in, day out, can become complacent about the risks, Leech said. “They need to keep water safety to the forefront of their minds, particularly this weekend.”

Farmers drown every year on their land, Leech said. “With most farmers no longer working their land full-time, they can be under pressure and tend to rush things, which sometimes results in mistakes being made.

Farmers never seem to think that these accidents could happen to them. Complacency is a great danger to farmers in their own environment.

Drownings often happen quickly and silently, with 80% occurring within the victim’s county, according to Irish Water Safety.

Of the 123 drownings last year, 94 were male, and 29 female. “Males tend to over-estimate their abilities and to under-estimate the risk around water and slurry pits,” Leech said.