Farm safety: A time for action

By Ciaran Roche FBD risk manager

Agriculture continues to be the sector with the most fatal accidents in the workplaces and sadly the Health Safety Authority (HSA) statistics show that there have already been 16 fatal accident so far this year¹.

These statistics make for stark reading and are a cause for great concern. This continuing and stubbornly high number of serious and fatal accidents present a significant challenge for the current generation of Irish farmers.

As a farming community we must refocus our efforts to change these alarming statistics. The pain, human suffering and economic loss that accompanies all serious and fatal accidents is immense.

Ciaran Roche, risk manager with FBD Insurance, discusses the importance of a safe working environment on farms.

Challenge yourself and stop taking risks

Many farmers, contractors and other agricultural workers are optimistic people and risk-takers by their nature. A change in unsafe working culture and behaviour is key to a sustained reduction in the number of serious and fatal accidents.

It’s a fact that most workers understand the most significant hazards on farms and the associated risks, but they often take chances when rushing, under stress or if there is a financial cost.

Farmers are more likely to take risks if it is seen as a perceived norm. For example, some farmers may operate a tractor with brakes in poor condition as long as the tractor is not used on a public road. The acceptability of unsafe working behaviour is a culture that we must change.

“Unsafe working practices are never acceptable”: This challenge is huge and therefore we need to start now by tackling one issue at a time. We need to work together as a farming community to break the cycle of risk-taking behaviour and therefore it is important that we bring everyone on the journey.

Talking safety to your family, employees and neighbouring farmers; including identifying hazards, risks, safety measures and discussing new safety ideas, solutions and technology is a great place to start.

Tractor, vehicle and machinery safety need to be a priority

Farmers and contractors rely heavily on tractors, vehicles and machinery to get the work done quickly and effectively. Tractors and machinery can help save you time, money and increase productivity but, also, are very dangerous if not operated in a safe manner. And tragically, the evidence of this is all too clear.

Over the last 10-year period, 50% of all fatalities in the farming sector have involved tractors, vehicles and machinery². The majority of tractor and vehicle accidents are caused by inexperienced operators, poor mechanical condition, excessive speed, lack of concentration and environmental factors such as steep gradients.

Most machinery accidents are the result of human error – the operator forgot something, took a shortcut or a risk, ignored a warning, was not paying close attention, failed to follow safety rules or did not maintain the machine and its guarding in a safe condition.

With these accident causations in mind it is essential that all tractors, vehicles and machinery are maintained in good condition, adequately guarded and only operated in a safe manner by competent persons.

Find a way to farm safely

Farmers need to look at the issues that negatively affect their safety behaviour when working such as distractions, stress, time constraints and lack of labour and then try find solutions to overcome these challenges.

Farmers need to manage health and safety on their farm including; design of facilities, time management, planned maintenance of farm machinery, equipment and facilities and effectively planning work activities.

3 key steps to farm safety

  1. The first step is realising that an accident can happen on your farm and having a positive attitude towards health and safety;
  2. The second step is to carry out a risk assessment. A risk assessment involves identifying every hazard on your farm, the associated risks and appropriate safety control measures;
  3. The third and most important step is implementing the safety control measures and ensuring that safe behavioural work practices are carried out at all times.

Challenge yourself and make safe a priority. For more information on farm safety, just click here

For information on how you could save on your farm insurance by switching to FBD Insurance, just click here

FBD Insurance Group Ltd trading as FBD Insurance is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. Farm Insurance is underwritten by FBD Insurance plc.

References

  1. Figure correct as of 20/10/20. www.hsa.ie;
  2. HSA report on Main causes of deaths in Agriculture and Forestry over the last 10 years 2010-2019.