In the last five years, 37% of all farm deaths involved older farmers aged 65 or over, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

While the vast majority of these accidents were associated with use of tractors and machinery, a significant number of deaths were due to livestock and falling from heights, the authority notes.

However, fatal and serious injury and ill health among those aged 65 and older can be avoided if they and their families identify the health and safety hazards that most affect them, the HSA says in its Code of Practice for safe farming.

The HSA’s 10-year review of fatal accidents indicates that most deaths are associated with the use of tractors and machinery; livestock – particularly cows/heifers after calving and bulls – and falling from heights.

Many of these deaths are associated with reduced speed of movement and reduced agility, the authority notes.

The authority outlined two key precautions for older farmers.

Firstly, the HSA advises older farmers to “examine work practices and fully consider limitations brought on by aging”, adding:

“For instance, a relatively high number of accidents occur when two people work in a farmyard at the same time. Examples include tractor and machinery operation and livestock-handling where the older farmer gets crushed.”

Secondly, the authority says:

“Consider the risks due to slower movement, loss of agility, hearing loss, poor vision or taking prescribed medication.

“Identify and remove hazards or identify work that should in fact be completely avoided such as working at height or herding/loading bulls.”