If you’re a full-time dairy farmer, over 55 years with over 30ha, you’re more likely to have a farm accident than other farmers.

According to Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector, Health & Safety Authority, farming accounts for more deaths per 100,000 people employed than any other sector, bar fishing, in Ireland.

However, he said that some countries have reduced the level of farm deaths to zero, so it is achievable for Ireland too.

“Across the economy we have a fatal accident rate of two deaths per 100,000 people working. In the construction sector that rises to six deaths. Construction was seen as the most dangerous sector to be working in. However, agriculture has 15 deaths per every 100,000 people working in that sector. Only fishing, with a rate of 40 per 100,000, has a worse rate.”

Intensive dairy farming attracts farm deaths, he said, and the answers to reducing farm death numbers are in the numbers.

“We must understand where the risk are and who is being killed. Half of those being killed are children or elderly people. We need to expand in a way that protects children and older people.

“Half the deaths involve tractors and machinery. But a machine or tractor never killed anyone, it’s how it’s used. Some 57% of all deaths happen on dairy farms, which represents 17% of the sector, so dairy farms are over represented.”

He also said that tractors cause nearly twice as many deaths among children as they do to general people working on the farm, whereas elderly people are more likely to die with livestock issues or from falls.

The biggest issue with farm accidents is pressure, he said, being unable to cope, not able to deal with expansion and the complexities of it.

Some 67% of farmers injured in a farm accident, he said, will be unable to work from 10-100 days. “Can you afford that time off work? Some 85% involved in a farm accident will have to attend A&E or be hospitalised and 90% of these accidents will occur on the farm yard or with farm buildings. It’s when you are in the farm yard, near buildings or working with tractors or machinery that danger exists.”

He advised farmers to check their farm once a week for all risks and put them right. “When something has gone wrong or something needs to be repaired – that’s when accidents happen.

“Don’t take risks, you will eventually get caught.”