Comment: It’s time to stop rushing

The weather for the next few days is set fair. So, let’s hope that farmers and contractors will have the opportunity to get on with the work in hand at a less frenetic pace. Last week’s slurry gas tragedy in North Co. Antrim, which left a young boy dead and his father critically ill, is further evidence of just how dangerous farming has become as a way of life.

Many farmers believe that they have become hostages to fortune given that there are not enough hours in the day to get all the work they need done. This, in turn, is a further reflection of the financial challenges facing local agriculture as a whole. The reality is that farmers have no option but to take on more work themselves, simply to make ends meet. Adding to this pressure is the fact that many young people, who in the past would have come home to farm, are not doing so. This is because they do not see agriculture as an attractive career options.  Hopefully, this will change once the new CAP incentives for young farmers have kicked in. Meanwhile, farming has become a very lonely profession.

Another dimension now kicking in is the growth of part-time farming. On these units, the producers are now trying to get a week’s work done in the space of a weekend. The term ‘rushing madly around’ comes immediately to mind in this context.

One of the most encouraging developments of recent times has been the work put in by all the various agri stakeholder groups in providing relevant health and safety advice to the various farm sectors. This is helping to keep farmers and their families safe as they go about their daily work. But there is one fundamental driver that underpins every piece of advice proffered by all farm safety experts – and that can be summed in the following statement: ‘why the rush?’

Reacting to circumstances all of the time is now the norm on so many of our farms. This mindset must be changed if the challenge of reducing farm accident rates is to be successfully addressed. The reality is that taking an extra moment or two’s thinking time – every day – makes all the difference when it comes to staying safe on-farm.