Farmers urged to reduce risks as Northern Ireland’s Air Ambulance is grounded

Farmers in Northern Ireland have been urged to take extra measures to reduce their risk of an accident while working.

It comes as Northern Ireland Air Ambulance (NIAA) announced the service had been temporarily grounded so the medical staff who man the helicopter can be redeployed.

No date was given for when the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) team would be back in the skies.

It’s significant for the farming community. Of the 380 call-outs Air Ambulance Northern Ireland received in its first year in action, 10% were for farm accidents.

A statement from the NIAA team read: “Along with Northern Ireland Ambulance Service we have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the HEMS.

“This decision was made in order for our key clinical staff to be redeployed to work on the frontline during the current public health emergency.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our medical team, especially during this challenging time.

The suspension of the service will be reviewed on an ongoing basis with all parties committed to recommencing the service immediately when staff can be reallocated.

The Farm Safety Partnership (FSP) urged farmers and their families to exercise “extreme care and attention”.

Victor Chestnutt, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), which is part of the partnership alongside the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA); the Health Service Executive of Northern Ireland (HSENI); the Young Farmers’ Clubs Of Ulster (YFCU); Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association (NIAPA); and National Farmers Union (NFU) Mutual, said:

“There is no doubt that our health service is under increased pressure at present and is facing challenging times in the days and weeks that lie ahead dealing with patients affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Therefore, now more than ever it is extremely important that everyone exercises extreme caution when working on farms in order to reduce the likelihood of a serious incident occurring, and this includes children who must be supervised correctly.

“All of our health services’ resources and staff will be required in the battle against Covid-19 and we really need to reduce the numbers of people presenting at Hospital Accident and Emergency departments having been involved in an incident on a farm, so please I urge you slow down and exercise extreme caution.”

The FSP warned that the health service cannot cope with any additional strain and urged all farmers and their families to “stop and think SAFE (slurry, animals, falls and equipment) before you do any job”.

The FSP warned farmers and farmworkers to ensure they do not take any unnecessary risks.

With schools off and children are out and about on farms, it’s especially important to look out for younger farmhands too

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