19 farm fatalities last year: ‘2021 needs to be the year farmers put safety first’

The significant number of fatalities on Irish farms in 2020 as a result of workplace incidents has been highlighted in a New Year’s message to farmers from Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine Martin Heydon.

There were 19 fatal incidents on farms in 2020, with three of these being children under the age of 18, and nine being farmers aged 65 or more.

This follows 25 fatalities in 2017, 15 in 2018 and 19 in 2019.

Commenting on these grim statistics, Minister Heydon – a farmer himself and minister with responsibility for farm safety – said: “The level of safety incidents, many of them fatal, we are seeing on farms across the country is unacceptably high.

Farming accounts for nearly 50% of all workplace fatal incidents, despite accounting for only 6% of the workforce.

“That’s why today I am appealing to everyone, as they wish farmers a Happy New Year, to also take the time to ask them to be safe on their farm in 2021.”

He added: “2021 needs to be the year when farmers put their own safety first; we cannot continue to see the level of fatalities we have seen in recent years.

“214 people tragically lost their lives on farms between 2010 and 2019 – and this is simply not acceptable.

“As the first ever minister to be given specific responsibility for farm safety, I am working to ensure that safety is at the heart of everything we do on our farms and I am determined to deliver lasting change that will drive down the current level of safety incidents.”

Noting the launch in recent months of a number of initiatives “that will hopefully help to deliver this change”, Minister Heydon said:

The new Accelerated Capital Allowance (ACA) scheme, which I brought forward together with Minister [for Finance Paschal] Donohoe, will make essential farm safety investments more accessible to farmers.

“Additionally, my new call for proposals under the Innovation Partnership (EIP) model, will fund a number of community-led farm safety projects that will hopefully deliver some new and innovative solutions.

“2021 will be an important year for farm safety with around 50,000 farmers set to receive vital safety training, and the revised HSA [Health and Safety Authority] Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee and its new Working Groups are now in place.

I plan to build on the momentum of recent months by working closely with farmers to deliver the needed initiatives that can make a real difference to safety on our farms.

He concluded by stating: “I wish farmers around the country a happy and safe new year.”