The news of another farm fatality was the opening greeting of the Health and Safety Authority’s (HSA) National Conference on Farm Safety and Health.

It brings to 20 the number of farm deaths this year, including three children.

Uncovered PTO shafts are not tolerated anymore, according to IFA President Eddie Downey. “Yet we still are losing too many people.” Ten of the deaths this year involved machinery of some sort, while four people died when trapped or crushed on farms. Four were over 80 years of age. Examples of how people died on farms this year were given by the HSA. They included the following:

  • One farmer died when he fell from a trailer which was being towed by a tractor. He was crushed by the trailer as it went over him.
  • Another farmer went into a shed to feed cattle and came into contact with the spikes of a bale lift.
  • A Mayo farmer was killed when he was herding two cattle down a road into a pen. One of the animals turned on him and knocked him to the ground. He hit his head and died later.
  • One farmer was found crushed between a silage bale on the front loader of his tractor and a feed gate.
  • In Roscommon, a tractor turned over on a farmer when he was driving it with a bale on the front loader at height to give him a view. While he managed to get out of the tractor, he was found dead in the mud outside, the next day.
  • Another farmer died when he had reversed his tractor and trailer close to a shed. When he went around to open the trailer door, the tractor slipped and he was crushed between the trailer and a wall.
  • One child was killed when they were struck by a tractor in the farmyard, while another was crushed when struck by the bucket of an excavator.
  • A farmer in Wexford was found dead beside a bale wrapper with head injuries. The pin for the lifting arm had been removed which allowed the lift arm fall.
  • In Donegal an 84-year-old man was killed by a cow when he was helping move cattle from one field to another. The cow had went for their dog first, but when he tried intervene the cow trampled him.
  • Another person was killed when they were overcome by slurry fumes and fell into the slurry pit, where they became entangled with the agitator.

Awareness is high and the attitudes are positive, but it is not translating into safe behaviour, said Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA. “The last time we saw this level of death in farming was 2010. The Minister for Labour became involved at that point and asked ‘what can we do, individually and collectively. These accidents and deaths are foreseeable and preventable.”