The agriculture sector accounted for over half of work-related vehicle deaths from 2010 to 2019, new data from the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) reveals.

Today (Monday, April 12), the HSA has published its Work Related Vehicle Deaths 2010-2019 report, which indicates that there were 490 work-related deaths in Ireland over the ten-year period and of these, 44% (217) involved vehicles.

In 2020 alone, 30 people died in vehicle-related incidents at work.

Of the 217 work-related deaths including vehicles, 82% occurred in four economic sectors, with the agriculture sector alone accounting for over half (110).

This report includes deaths that occurred as a result of vehicles being driven, people working on or around moving vehicles, and also includes those that occurred as a result of machinery powered by vehicles, vehicle attachments, towed equipment and trailers, vehicle loading and unloading operations and maintenance and repair of vehicle attachments.

Agriculture sector

The vehicles involved in the greatest number of work-related deaths were tractors (64), followed by trucks (35), loaders/telehandlers (20), quad bikes (13) and forklifts (13).

The single most common working process of victims at the time of the incident was maintenance of vehicles (30). Other important working processes were storing, including loading and unloading (28), agricultural work with live animals (20) and agricultural work, working the land (18).

Altogether, 60 work-related deaths involving vehicles were associated with various agricultural working processes (33% of all worker deaths). 25 worker victims were engaged in farm-related construction activities at the time of the incident.

The deaths recorded in agriculture “disproportionately affected older people”. Among workers, 65% of victims were aged 55 years or more. The average age was 58, compared with 46 in other sectors.

There were 15 deaths of non-workers in the agriculture sector, of which 80% were under the age of 18. The HSA said that this “indicates the risks vehicles at work pose to children and young people on farms”.

Deaths in agriculture mainly involved smaller enterprises, with 76% involving self-employed people with no employee and 21% involving enterprises with one to nine employees.

24 counties reported work-related deaths involving vehicles. In 18 (75%) of these counties, at least half of the deaths occurred in agriculture.

63% of deaths between May and September

A higher number of deaths occurred on Saturdays and Sundays in agriculture (26) compared with other economic sectors (16).

Overall, most deaths were clustered around conventional working hours, from 8:00am to 5:00pm. There were fewer deaths in agriculture in the early part of the day, compared with other sectors.

Deaths in agriculture peaked around 2:00pm, and 27% of all deaths in agriculture occurred from 5:00pm or later, compared with just 7% in other sectors.

“Agricultural activity may continue later into the evening than other economic sectors. This is particularly the case during the busy farming period of summer and early autumn,” the report noted.

Of the deaths involving vehicles in agriculture that occurred from 5:00pm, 63% happened during the summer-autumn period of May to September.

The single most common location of a death was a ‘breeding area’, typically farm fields and sheds. There were 49 such deaths.

Agricultural deaths also occurred in other unspecified farming areas (25), ground crop areas (13), storage/loading areas (four), maintenance workshops (three) and areas permanently open to the public, which were mainly public roads (9).

HSA launches a safety inspection campaign

The HSA is beginning a two-week transport operations and vehicles at work inspection and awareness campaign from today.

The inspection campaign will focus on the management of vehicle risks in the workplace such as driving for work, vehicle operations and load securing.

Inspectors will be concentrating on warehousing and storage operations within transport and logistics companies, distribution and warehousing centres and manufacturing premises with a warehousing components.