‘Farming carries 10 times more risk of fatality’

Farming is the occupation with the highest risk of fatalities in the country; with a rate nearly 10 times the average, according to a new report published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The report, titled ‘Risk taking and Accidents on Irish Farms‘, examines a number of different types of risks that farmers take and looks at whether they are associated with accidents or ‘near misses’ on the farm.

The report draws on a survey of over 800 farmers commissioned by the Health and Safety Authority; all of whom are male, self-employed and who had no regular-paid employees.

Alarmingly, quite a high percentage of those surveyed routinely fail to take recommended safety precautions; as a consequence the level of risk involved increases.

27% of farmers fail to get help with difficult jobs, while 26% admit failing to use safety gear; such as ear protection and high-visibility vests.

12% of farmers reported not using PTO or other machinery guards, designed to avoid entanglement.

The report found no association between risk taking and work stress.

Of the 800 farmers surveyed, 12% reported being personally involved in an accident, and 27% had a ‘near miss’. In both cases, accidents and ‘near misses’ were more common on larger farms.

Farmers not getting help was strongly associated with both accidents and ‘near misses’.

Reacting to the ESRI report, the Irish Farmers’ Association Farm Family Chairperson, Maura Canning, said that addressing the labour shortage on farms is central to improving farm safety.

“Farmers need two things: extra help to cope with an expanding workload; and skilled workers who can handle specialist tasks on farms, particularly those with machinery,” she stated.

Canning pointed out the issue in meeting skilled-labour demand on dairy farms following the removal of quotas.

“A number of farmers who have contacted the IFA about this issue have identified skilled individuals in countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA), which have an already-established intensive dairy industry. However, due to our current work permit system they are unable to employ these people.”

In order to meet demand, the IFA has proposed that employment permits should be extended to farm workers from non-EEA countries.