There is a gross under reporting of farm accidents and injuries therefore statistics on farm accidents are more difficult to compile, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) says.

It also says that statistics on fatalities do not provide the full picture and they generally only represent the tip of the iceberg when serious non-fatal incidents are considered.

While little gets reported to the authority there are significant numbers of serious amputations and incidents causing long-term disability within every rural community, it says.

Due to this gross under reporting, the average number of incidents reported to the HSA is just 100 per year, despite farmers’ legal obligation to do so it says.

The HSA says that it relies to a great extent on the findings of the National Farm Survey conducted by Teagasc for trends in non-fatal incidents.

The 2011 National Farm Survey results estimated that farm injuries increased by 35% to 2,459 injuries per 100,000 farms reported for the year 2010 compared to the previous survey estimate of 1,815 per 100,000 farms in 2006.

This is still a reduction in the numbers recorded in 2001, the HSA says.

There are many risks to health in farming and farming as an occupation predisposes people to health problems, it says.

The HSA says that the principal causes of ill health in farming are musculoskeletal conditions, skin and respiratory diseases and hearing damage from noise exposure.

Recent Teagasc/HSA/UCD research indicated that almost one in every 10 farmers suffer a musculoskeletal injury annually with over 80% of injury victims being unable to work for three days or more.

Of importance to note is that on several occasions during the research individual farmers referred to a single incident which lead to an acute injury and a lifetime of disability, it says.

Injury Categorisation

Injuries from trips, falls and blows are most frequent, accounting for 42% of injuries according to figures from the National Farm Survey which examined non-fatal farm incidents per 100,000 farms.

Other major causes are livestock-related injuries (33%) and vehicle and machinery (11%) and chainsaws (3%) and other (8%) it found.

The trend over the various surveys indicates that machinery injuries have declined significantly which is welcome, but the proportion associated with livestock has increased, it says.

Person Injured

It found that the farmer or farm operator is predominately the person who has an injury and accounts for 73.3% of injuries.

Other categories of persons injured are farm workers (8.9%); spouses who could be male or female (8.6%), family members (7.5%) and others (1.7%), it says.

A key message from this finding is that farm family members when combined suffer over 90% of all injuries on farms.

Location of Injury

The farmyard is where the vast majority of farm work activity takes place, such as moving around on foot leading to slips, trips and falls or being struck by falling objects along with common work involving tractors.

The farmyard is where 71.5% of injuries take place, the HSA says and other locations are farm buildings (18.7%) and in fields (9.8%).

Indicators of Injury Severity

Within the National Farm Survey, 95% of reported injuries required medical treatment which is an indicator of the severity of farm incidents as farmers are generally slow to seek medical attention, it says.

The HSA says that of these 49% required hospital inpatient treatment and 36% required hospital A&E treatment.

Almost 90% of injuries caused four or more lost work days and 71% lost 10 of more work days with 41% causing more than 20 days lost and 15% causing more than 100 days lost, it says.

The HSA says that the data shows that the majority of injuries reported in the National Farm Survey are serious with many minor injuries also causing some lost time not seen as significant by farmers and going unreported.