A Co. Galway man, who had to change his farming practices after sustaining serious injury in a farm accident, has hit out at the Minister for Agriculture for his recent comments on farm safety.

Peter Gohery, who farms 150ac at Eyrecourt, criticised Minister Michael Creed’s comments, as reported in AgriLand.

Gohery said: “The Minister was reported as saying that farm safety is not a state problem, not a farm organisation problem and not a Health and Safety Authority problem – that it’s every individual farmer’s problem.”

Gohery, a former suckler farmer, said he could not claim state benefits when he was unable to work. Now, he said, he can no longer make a realistic income from tillage.

The Galway man was one of those occupying the Department of Agriculture buildings in Kildare Street overnight last weekend. He was part of a protest staged by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) over the proposed cap on payments under a tillage crisis fund.

Speaking to AgriLand at the department offices, Gohery called on Minister Creed to roll out a national mentoring programme on farm safety, similar to that piloted in the past by Irish Rural Link.

He said farmers who were getting poor prices for their produce would be less likely to be able to afford to introduce safety measures. “In some cases, farmers would be better off on the dole. They would have less stress and no inspections.”

Gohery, who is moving into the area of safety training, said farmers could also reduce the likelihood of farm accidents by taking a number of preventative measures.

“A lot of farm accidents involve machinery. Farm families should complete their risk assessment documents together, identifying the risks and hazards.

“They should consider giving training vouchers for tractor drivers – say to 16-year-olds – before they develop bad driving habits. Training in the use of quad bikes could also be very valuable.

“Make sure PTO shafts are covered and that ‘O’ and ‘U’ guards are in place,” he said.

Dealing with children and machinery

“Too many children have fallen out of tractors, losing their lives as a result, or being left maimed for life. High-powered machinery and young children do not mix – children need to be in separate playgrounds, away from machinery. There are a lot of blind spots around tractors.

At the end of the working day, machinery should be reverse parked at a safe stop. All implements should be lowered; the handbrake applied; the equipment turned off; and the keys removed.

“In the morning, check that mirrors and glass are clean to ensure a good view, and that lights are working properly.”

Many accidents involve livestock. “Older farmers should herd from a vehicle such as a tractor, car, jeep, or quad, where possible. Ensure that quads are  kept in good order and always wear a helmet.

“Don’t go near freshly-calved cows, unless you have extra help with you, and always carry a stick. Don’t wear high visibility jackets around livestock.

Cats and dogs can run under your feet in a bid to get away from livestock, and this scenario can end up with the farmer being attacked. Pets need to be kept away from stock.

“If a bull becomes agitated or aggressive on any occasion, it should be sent to the factory. It should not be kept or brought to the mart for sale. It doesn’t matter how good the bull is,” Gohery said.

Final piece of advice

Electricity is another area that should be looked at, he said. “Know where the electricity poles are on your fields and where the lines are crossing overhead. Contractors should also know where wires and poles are. Electricity in sheds should be checked by a qualified electrician.”

Slurry pit accidents have tragically claimed many lives. “Farmers need to follow the safe procedures in the Code of Practice for agitating slurry, and always have another person with them when carrying out this work. Also, pets should be kept securely away.”

Loose gates left lying around can cause injury and death, Gohery said. “They should be installed and swinging properly, without twine or rope holding them.

“Not alone should the gate be latched in the closed position; it should also be latched in the open position so that no one can get behind it.”

Sliding doors should be installed in sheds, said Gohery. “They are less likely to cause damage, and TAMS grants can be availed of for them.”

Farmers should also try to avoid going up on roofing and the use of ladders should be kept to a minimum, Gohery said. “It’s better to hire a basket truck for roof access; to stay inside the basket; and to carry out repairs, cleaning or painting, from there.”