‘Farming is still the most dangerous job in Ireland’ – Minister Breen

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) launched a new farming publication entitled ‘Confined Spaces in Agriculture’, during the official opening of its Farm Safety exhibit at the National Ploughing Championships in Co. Carlow this morning, Tuesday, September 17.

The publication explains the dangers associated with confined spaces and sets out practical steps on how to prevent life threatening incidents on the farm.

Carrying out official proceedings on the day, Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection, Pat Breen, said the exposure to dangerous gases in confined spaces posed “a real risk in modern farming”.

Farming is still the most dangerous job in Ireland with an average of 21 deaths a year in workplace incidents.

He continued: “There have been 207 farming fatalities in the last decade and, while there have been some improvements, every death is one too many.

“I would urge all those involved in working on farms to read the HSA’s new publication and to familiarise themselves with the dangers of working in confined spaces.”

‘Life-threatening hazards’

Meanwhile, HSA’s chief executive officer, Dr. Sharon McGuinness, pointed to how there has been nine deaths in confined spaces on Irish farms in the last five years.

Any confined space on a farm poses a potentially life-threatening hazard, but the threat may not be apparent until it’s too late.

She continued: “We are very concerned that farmers generally don’t recognise or consider the dangers of confined spaces.

“Confined spaces such as silos, vats, tanks, wells, slurry pits and other enclosed or partly enclosed structures can very quickly lead to suffocation and death if a person is exposed to dangerous vapours, toxic gases, dust or low oxygen levels.

The safest approach with any confined space is to avoid going in there in the first place.

“If work must be done in a confined space, it should only be carried out by trained professionals.

“The message we want people to take away from our exhibit is that these places are not somewhere people should work or children should play,” Dr. McGuinness concluded.