The HSA has confirmed that it will prosecute farmers if children under seven years of age are found in tractors.

A spokesperson for the HSA said that it will take such incidents on a case-by-case basis but, if visual a inspection on farms show that children under seven are in tractors it is a breach of regulations and the inspector will inform the farmer that they may be prosecuted.

“It’s a case for the District Court judge to determine the prosecution, but fines of up to €5,000 can be imposed at District Court level.”

He said that the HSA will not tolerate excuses such as ‘minding the kids’ anymore for children being found on tractors. “We are not interested in excuses. Too many children are being killed on farms.

“Hopefully the message will go through, that it’s not acceptable to have children on tractors.” He also said that farmers would be prosecuted if unguarded PTO shafts or unguarded lagoons were found.

Children safer in tractors says Downey

IFA President Eddie Downey said at this week’s AGM that while the tractor cab is not the safest place to have young children, “it’s an awful lot safer than having them on the ground running around the yard.”

He also said that reduced farm incomes is leading to farmers working longer hours and being more stressed.

“Lack of profitability is forcing people to do more work and spend more hours working to try and get enough of an income to support a family. That’s been a particular problem since the drop in the Rural Development payments.”

But, he said that farmers are taking the whole issue of farm safety very seriously. “You can see that from the uptake of Farm Safety Grants and we have to be defensive.”

“Once you leave the door of the house every morning you have to think about safety. Think safety, farm safely. The IFA said it is investing heavily in farm safety, with its 2,000 meetings annually addressing the issue.”

He said that a big problem is that the farm is a place for education as well as a place for work. “And we have to educate the next generation who are coming into farming and how do you do that if you don’t have them on farms?”

Farmers attitudes can change towards safety, he said and pointed to the standards of farms, which he said have improved significantly in recent years.

“Every yard you go into is better and cleaner than they were, but they are busier. There is a stress level there that we need to tackle.”