Appeal for awareness made following 16 farm fatalities on island of Ireland

With the ongoing high rate of fatal farm accidents in 2020, four ministers from the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have issued a joint call for an increased awareness of farm safety on the island of Ireland.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed; Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots; Minister for the Economy Diane Dodds; and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys have come together to highlight the need for all farmers, and all of those involved in agriculture, to play their part and reduce the rate of farm incidents.

Fatalities

In a joint appeal for awareness, the ministers said: ‘‘We all have a long association with farming and have all seen first-hand the devastation that follows farm incidents and fatalities.

It is very concerning to see a surge in the number of fatal farm incidents on our farms. This year, there have been 16 fatal incidents on farms on the island of Ireland, with 13 fatal incidents in Ireland and three fatal incidents in Northern Ireland.

The ministers continued, adding: ‘‘The majority of these accidents have occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions and in particular it is sad to see the number of children and older people that have died on our farms in recent weeks.”

Three children and nine people over 65 have died this year, while 14 fatal accidents occurred during the Covid-19 restrictions, according to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

There has been a remarkable level of public awareness across both jurisdictions of the need to flatten the Covid curve. Faced with an overwhelming public health imperative, practices such as physical distancing, coughing etiquette and hand sanitising have become a cultural norm, the department added.

The ministers highlighted the need for a similar and immediate effort if communities are to make a real impact on the prevalence of farm incidents.

“Farm safety has to be built into our DNA. We have demonstrated with our collective response to Covid that this can be done,” the ministers’ call added.

Research

Research shows that farmers and contractors are generally aware of the risks, but often don’t adhere to the safety rules or take specific steps to ensure that the work they are engaged in can be done safely. Farm safety cannot be left to someone else.

It has to be lived by the farmer, by all of us, and built into the routine. We are appealing to farmers and those working on farms to take time to think about farm safety every morning, before you go out into the yard.

You should always plan your work, take a moment to stop and think:
  • How am I going to do this job safely?
  • Do I have everything I need?
  • Are there other people or hazards such as machinery, obstructions or livestock in the area I’m working in?

This approach does not cost anything. It only takes a few moments. It does, however, require conscious reflection on farm safety every single day, and before every single job is tackled, the ministers highlighted.

“Farming is a vital part of the structure and economy across the island. Farmers continue to work hard and long hours on a daily basis to produce essential foodstuffs.

“While farms are high-risk workplaces, farming does not have to be dangerous. Simple basic precautions can reduce the risks and prevent future accidents.

This is particularly important at present during the Covid-19 restrictions as more people are at home and on the farm including young children and older members of families.

Along with farm safety partnerships, the four ministers came together to outline their concern and collectively are calling on all to work together with the single goal of preventing accidents and therefore saving lives.

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