Farm Safety Week: ‘Real concerns’ that 30 people could die on Irish farms in 2017

As the fifth annual Farm Safety Week in Ireland and the UK gets underway, there is a “real concern” that 30 people could die on Irish farms in 2017, according to the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

Supported by a number of agencies – including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership – the Farm Safety Week initiative aims to reduce the number of accidents on farms.

Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland, last year 21 people lost their lives in farm accidents; a total of 14 people have lost their lives so far in 2017.

There are real concerns that, if the number of farm deaths continues at the rate it has so far this year, the number of deaths in 2017 could be as bad as 2014 – when 30 people died on Irish farms, the IFA added.

During the week, farmers will be encouraged to take some time to assess the safety of routine tasks. The campaign will focus on a different risk each day, including: machinery and transport; falls; livestock and slurry; and child safety on farms.

Speaking in light of these figures, the President of the IFA, Joe Healy, said: “The statistics are stark, but statistics don’t give the whole story – they don’t tell you about the devastating impact a farm fatality has on families and communities.

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“They don’t tell you the impact a farm accident can have on the rest of your life, or your ability to run the farm.

“Farm Safety Week is about confronting farmers with the realities behind the statistics, making them realise that they could, in fact, be the next statistic unless they take safety measures and change their work practices.

“The message we want to get out there is simple – always think safety first. The evidence is overwhelming; if you make time to discuss health and safety before doing a task, the chances of incurring an injury go way down,” he said.

‘We must all take responsibility’

Everyone must take responsibility for safety on Irish farms, according to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed.

There have been far too many fatal accidents on farms in 2017. While there are many risks in farming, farming does not have to be a dangerous occupation.

“Behavioural change is what is required to prevent many accidents. It is a case of being aware of the dangers and taking the time to do what is necessary to minimise the risk,” he said.

Meanwhile, the need to change the whole culture in relation to farm safety was underlined by the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Pat Breen.

Minister Breen also pointed to the findings of a recent ESRI report which identified the risks being taken by farmers throughout the country.

He noted that the study found that young farmers and dairy farmers are most likely to ignore the risks involved in the daily tasks they are carrying out on a farm; this finding must be taken on board, he added.

Raising awareness

All too often, accidents that happen on Irish farms are preventable, the Chief Executive of the HSA, Martin O’ Halloran, said.

“Last year, the number of deaths on farms increased, with 21 reported in 2016 compared to 18 in 2015.

The HSA is committed to working with our partners on initiatives, like Farm Safety Week, to inform their activities and drive forward improvements in safety performance.

“We know that we need to engage with farmers of all ages to help them tackle this poor safety record and make farms safer places to work,” he said.

The Farm Safety Week initiative is being led by the IFA in Ireland; its message this year is ‘Farm Safety is a Lifestyle not a Slogan’.