Slips, trips and falls are the biggest cause of farm accidents in Ireland, according to Catherina Glancy of the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Speaking on a Teagasc and HSA safety farm walk on the farm of Andrew Purcell and Alf McGlew, who are farming in partnership at Grangebellew, Co. Louth, she said that farmers had died when overcome with the fumes under the plastic of a silage pit, while another had died when the round bale they were fixing the wrapping on rolled over on top of them.

Pat Griffin of the HSA said it would carry out 2,300 farm safety visits in 2015, while approximately 150 farm safety discussion groups would take place as well as a number of farm walks, to help prevent farm accidents and fatalities.

The Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, who was also at the farm walk, confirmed that another Farm Safety Scheme would open in July, subject to the Rural Development Plan being approved.

The Minister had previously said that farm safety had been identified as a priority area for investment under the TAMS II element of the next Rural Development Programme subject to EU Commission approval of Ireland’s Programme. Speaking at the launch of ‘Farm Safety Fortnight’ the Minister confirmed that a new scheme is likely to open in July.

The current Farm Safety Scheme which was introduced in October 2014 took advantage of available funds under the old 2007-2013 Rural Development Programme has been designed to overcome some of the particular hazards which may be present on farms.

A total of €12.2m has been allocated to the current scheme and 6,299 applications for aid were received before the final closing date in January.

He pointed to the numbers who died on farm accidents last year and said the numbers were totally unacceptable.

“This will be a watershed year for change in farm safety,” he said.

Statistics for farm death and accidents “a reproach” to the whole sector

The President of ICMSA, John Comer, has said that the statistics on farm deaths and accidents are an ever-present reproach and challenge to the whole sector and he implored farmers to deliberately and consciously identify and improve even one safety feature on their farms to coincide with this year’s Farm Safety Fortnight:

“I’m asking every single farmer to proactively change one aspect of their farming operation in a way that lessens any safety risks associated with it.

“We have to learn to take our time and be willing to lose a minute in our working day because – and the statistics bear this out – it’s very possible to lose your life in a minute on working farms,” he said.