Shearing contractor, George Graham gave a talk to those in attendance on farm safety and mental wellbeing at a recent agricultural show in which he had a few important messages to get across.

While demonstrating how to shear a sheep, George finished up his demonstration with some advice on working on farms and being safe while working and also on the physical and mental wellbeing of a person.

Speaking to Agriland, George said: “I’ll mention a couple of things on farm safety.

“One of which a lot of people are making narrow escapes from is agitating slurry. Agitating slurry is a lethal job if you don’t have proper ventilation, a good breezy day and every door in the shed opened.

“You won’t know or feel anything until you fall down and then it’s too late and if you do manage to escape from a a near miss you will probably still have a lot of damage done to your health.

“Following on from agitating, machinery, I have seen a power drive fatality and a person escape from one.

“It’s something I never want to see again or any person or family should have to go through.

“We are always rushing and in a hurry to get jobs done. However, it’s always worth taking that step back for a minute to weigh up what we are doing and do it sensibly and safely.

“Quads is another one. They are a great machine that do great work on farms. However, the one thing I’ll emphasise with a quad is they are a great machine but aren’t a play toy.

“You can’t take chances with them. I’ve seen accidents from them and a very good friend of mine had an accident with one a few years ago.

“I went to see him after it in a rehabilitation centre in Dun Laoghaire and as a result of the accident, he will be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

“And what we are still seeing is people getting up on a quad without a helmet.

“The helmet should be left on the quad and be put on before you get on it.”

Getting a health check

What is equally important is your physical and mental health, particularly in men you will see this more often that we fail to look after ourselves properly, George said.

“Any of us that have a jeep or a car, we have to get a NCT done on it every year, which we have to pay for and if we don’t we will get a fine and penalty points.

“But yet many won’t take one hour off to make an appointment with the local GP to get a health check done.

“Men are terrible for it, not getting one done and it’s so important to do.

“You should pick a week where you are going to ring up and get an appointment and get it done. Many are probably afraid that they will have something wrong with them.

“But in fairness to the health service, who we give out a lot about it, if they do find something wrong they can do great work provided whatever is wrong is found in time.

“But if we don’t give them a chance we are going nowhere.”

Mental wellbeing

“The final thing I’d like to mention and it is one of the hardest ones to talk about is mental wellbeing.

“We know there’s a lot of isolation in rural areas in Ireland, a lot of farmers work alone.

“I often talk to farmers who get up early around 6-6:30a.m, get a bit of breakfast and then see them again at 4:00p.m in the evening and say that they are starving and hadn’t time to get anything to eat.

“If you haven’t time to eat you have a real problem in life. That further leads on to other things, such as fatigue which makes you more prone to farm accidents and poor mental health.

“If you are isolated and work alone, you should take the time to go meet a neighbour, go to the shop and get a cup of tea and even if it’s only getting a hello or how are you from someone working in the shop or someone passing by it’s better than nothing.

“Because this being on your own all day it’s not good for you. With mental health, there is nobody that is going to come to you about the problem. You have to go to someone.

“You might be the heart and soul of a party but yet could be the most loneliest person there.

“So you need to take that first, hardest step and talk to someone, be it family, a friend or your local GP.

“Nobody might not know you have a problem. Nobody is going to come with the toolbox and wrenches and fix you, you need to approach someone first.

“The most important gift you can give anybody is the gift of your time.

“Three things I’ll finish by saying that are important are. Be safe, peace of mind, and your health. If you get those three things right, you’ll cross most bridges in life.”