The sixth annual Farm Safety Week UK and Ireland – which aims to to reduce the number of accidents on farms and bring about a cultural change – kicks off today (Monday, July 16).
The message for this year’s campaign is: “Your Health. Your Safety. Your Choice”.
Led in Ireland by the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA), Farm Safety Week is supported by a number of agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and members of the Farm Safety Partnership Advisory Committee.
Farming continues to have one of the poorest safety records of any sector in Ireland, last year 24 people lost their lives in farm accidents and 12 people have lost their lives so far in 2018.
Reacting to these figures, IFA president Joe Healy said: “The statistics are stark but statistics don’t tell the whole story – they don’t tell you about the devastating impact a farm fatality has on families and communities.
“They don’t tell you the impact a farm accident can have on the rest of your life, on your ability to run the farm.
“Understanding the risks on and around a farm operation makes it easier to avoid dangers, and makes accidents less likely.
“However, all too often farmers do not recognise the risks on their farms, which makes it difficult to manage the problem,” he said.
Sometimes, all that is needed is a fresh pair of eyes to help identify risks and to enable change.
Sharon McGuinness, chief executive of the HSA, said: “Farming is still the most dangerous sector in which to work and, although awareness of the issues is high, we’re not seeing this translate into a sustained reduction in fatalities.
Farmers must take responsibility to prioritise safety, especially when working with tractors and machinery which are the biggest cause of fatal accidents.
“Farmers should keep all machinery in good working order and have the necessary competence and experience to operate.”
Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed said: “There are a lot of risks in farming but farming doesn’t have to be a dangerous occupation if you are aware of the risks.
“We have definitely seen an increased awareness of farm safety, thanks to initiatives like Farm Safety Week, and now we need to build this awareness into action and behavioural change.
Farmers are very busy, particularly at this time of year, but it’s important to take some time to think about what could improve safety on your farm and in your work practices and then to follow through and make those changes.
In addition, the minister welcomed the inclusion of a mental health element to the campaign theme.
He said: “While farmers are used to caring for and nurturing their land and their animals, they can at the same time neglect their own health.
“As part of Farm Safety Week 2018 I am calling on all farmers to take a step back and to take better care of themselves both physically and mentally and to do so, not just for themselves, but also for the families and friends who depend on them.”